Written by Tinatin Bujiashvili
Tsilkani is a village northwest of Mtskheta. Its church, one of the oldest in Georgia, was founded in the 4th century by an early Bagrationi of Mukharani. The area has been occupied since prehistoric times. At nearby Dzalisi remnants and mosaic floors of a Roman town of the 2nd century AD were found.
The present church at Tsilkani, to judge from its architectural style, must date from the 12th century. Its interesting murals appear to have been painted in the middle of the 13th century as the image of Christ in the apse conch indicates.
St. Ise of Tsilkani is buried in the TsilkaniChurch of the Most Holy Mary.
Saint Ise of Tsilkani arrived in Georgia in the 6th century with the other Syrian fathers and companions of St. Ioane of Zedazeni.
At the recommendation of St. Ioane of Zedazeni, Catholicos Evlavios of Kartli consecrated St. Ise as bishop of Tsilkani. The holy father traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Holy Gospel. Passing from city to city, from valley to mountain and back, the kind shepherd worked wonders, healed the infirm, cleansed lepers, cast out demons and raised those who were confined to their beds.
Once, with the blessing of his teacher St. Ioane of Zedazeni, St. Ise performed a miracle to strengthen the people in their Faith. He descended to the bank of the Ksani River, followed by Fr. Ioane and a multitude of people. He made the sign of the Cross over the river, touched his staff to the water and commanded: “In the name of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, I command you, river: follow me!” Immediately the river reversed its current and began to flow backwards, following in St. Ise’s footsteps right up to Tsilkani Church.
Those living near Mtskheta and Tsilkani who witnessed this miracle glorified the Lord Jesus Christ for bestowing upon one of His children the gift of wonder-working.
When the Lord made known to the saint the day of his repose, he gathered his disciples and church servitors, bade them farewell, blessed them, partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and reposed in peace. His last words were “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”
The church was destroyed and restored several times. It was a basilica but today it is a domed cathedral.