Written by Tinatin Bujiashvili
Once a year, on the seventh week after Easter people from all parts of Georgia and also from both sides of the Administrative Boundary Line gather to celebrate Lomisoba at the Lomisi Monastery near the village of Mleta, about 10 km South of Gudauri. The centre of Lomisoba festival is Lomisoba St George’s church on the top of a high mountain. It was summer, 2008 when I first visited the site and I got an unforgettable experience of climbing the mountain when it was fog and hailing. Unfortunately no photographs are kept of the day because of rain and hail my camera broke down. After that day I visited the place three times and I am going this year too.Before climbing up we always visit the St George’s church in Mleta, attend a little part of liturgy there as the liturgy has always finished by the time we reach the church on the mountain. Though this time we were lucky. When we entered the church the ceremony was still going on.
There is the assumption that the church initially was the pagan shrine dedicated to the moon deity, on the place of which the Christian church was built later.
Lomisa was the main shrine of the people living in Mtiuleti and Ksani River gorge. Very important political, military and economic issues were negotiated here.
The church built of rough stone is a triple-church basilica, in which the nave and aisles are separated by solid, continuous walls instead of by colonnades. The peculiarity of this church lies in the fact that in the middle of its interior stands the column, which doesn’t have any constructional function. Some scholars argue that it might symbolically represent “The Life-giving pillar” of Svetitskhoveli, However, it might also cross with the tradition of “dedabodzi” – central column in the mid of the interior of Georgian dwelling houses, also found in this region.
There is another legend about the door of the church. The church had an oak door. Once, a king’s army had a rest in the mountain. They couldn’t find wood nearby to cook their meal so they chopped the door of the church and cooked their dinner. The ones, who ate the meal, got blind. The leader prayed for healing and promised to make an iron door. They were healed so the leader kept his promise and the church has iron door today.