Written by Tinatin Bujiashvili
355 km from Tbilisi in Samtskhe Mountains there is a monastery of St. John the Baptist in a cave. Every year on September 11 a liturgy takes place there. In order to attend it you have to cross the river Mtkvari. It is said that only that day at 12 am the water level in the river starts to decrease until midday. Pilgrims from every part of Georgia are able to cross it and then in the evening the level of the river is rising again.
The liturgy is held in the open air.
The cave was discovered by Iobi the bishop of Ruis-Urbnisi. According to him, while visiting Vardzia with pilgrims, they noticed the cave on the other side of the river Mtkvari. They were interested what there was, crossed the river and found out a church curved in the rock. In order to enter the church you should bend and there is a ladder leading up to the church. Despite having only one tiny window, the church is not dark, but quite lighted.
After that day they decided to hold a liturgy on that place every year on the day of beheading of St. John the Baptist, September11.
As bishop Iobi says, the name of the place wasn’t known. Bagrat or as he was called Bagrata Papa, a hundred -year -old man lived in Zemo Vardzia. He told him that the place was called Tavkvetula.
The church and the hiding places built in the 10th century are situated on the right bank of the river Mtkvari between the village Mirashkhan and Vardzia.
The place is quite interesting. As bishop Iobi says bishop Nikoloz is going to bring a group of alpinists to discover the site well.
It is also said that a father’s monastery may be built there.