Mtskheta was the ancient capital of Kartli, the East Georgian Kingdom from the III century BC to the V century AD, and was also the location where Christianity was proclaimed as the official religion of Georgia in 337. Today, it still remains the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.

After the VI century AD, when the capital was transferred to Tbilisi, Mtskheta continued to retain its leading role as one of the important cultural and spiritual centres of the country.

The Holy Cross Monastery of Jvari, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Antioqia Monastery and Samtavro Monastery are key monuments of medieval Georgia. The present churches include the remains of earlier buildings on the same sites, as well as the remains of ancient wall paintings.

The complex of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in the centre of the town includes the cathedral church, the palace and the gates of the Katolikos Melchizedek that date from the 11th century, built on the site of earlier churches dating back to the 5th century. The cruciform cathedral is crowned with a high cupola over the crossing, and there are remains of important wall paintings in the interior. The rich sculpted decoration of the elevations dates from various periods over its long history.

The small domed church of the Samtavro Monastery was originally built in the 4th century and has since been subject to various restorations. The main church of the monastery was built in the early 11th century. It contains the grave of Mirian III, the king of Iberia who established Christianity as official religion in Georgia.

At the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari Rivers there was a small church which later in the historical sources was mentioned as Antioqia. In the records of Vakhushti Batonishvili, the church was built by King Archil, a grandfather of Vakhtang Gorgasali. According to Morris Vagner, a German traveller, in the beginning of XIX century Antioqia church was still functional. Later in 2002 a Nunnery was opened at the church and now the church is functional.

The Holy Cross Monastery of Jvari was built in VI century on a hill opposite Mtskheta.  Shortly after the adoption of Christianity, King Mirian III erected an enormous wooden cross on this site. In the II half of the VI century Guaram, the ruler of Kartli, built a small church beside the Holy Cross.

Tika Bujiashvili

Source: Historical Monuments of Mtskheta