Mtskheta is the spiritual capital of Georgia, it was the real capital until the 5th century when King Vakhtang Gorgesali changed the capital to Tbilisi. Here St Nino converted the Iverian Kingdom to Christianity. It lies less than 25 km North of Tbilisi on the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers.
Driving to Mtskheta, the first monument to notice is Jvari Church overlooking Mtskheta, “Jvari” means holy cross, between 585 and 604 Karteli Duke Stepanoz I constructed the church on the hilltop. One of the attractions for tourists to Georgia is the ancient church architecture, which somehow managed to survive all the invasions by Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Persians and Russians.
Dominating the town of Mtskheta is the grand Svetitskhoveli Cathedral built in the 11th Century. According to tradition Christ’s robe lies buried beneath the cathedral.
Women visiting an Orthodox Cathedral are required to wear a dress and cover their heads. I take the symbol with the camera to mean no flash photography, usually my flash is “forced off”, I only use it rarely in certain conditions, I prefer my photographs to be illminated where possible with the light I see, artificial or natural, not by my flash.
I recently read about some monks searching for relics in A Morbid Taste for Bones a Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters. Here in the cathedral a foot shaped reliquary holds a bone from Saint Andrew’s foot.
Around the Cathedral are many souvenir stalls, selling a wide range of items including some depicting Stalin. It is a tricky business when the most famous Georgian was also a murderous dictator.
After walking around the cathedral and looking at Samtavro Church, we attempted to take a road to Armazi’s fortress but it proved unsuitable for the Toyota Vitz we were travelling in (needed a 4 x 4), so we abandoned that idea and as we were hungry, we headed for a local Khinkhali restaurant.
In addition to Khinkhali a meat filled dumpling, we had mtsvadi (grilled meat), Georgian Pickles, lobio (beans) and mchadi (a maize flour bread). Khato, my wife, is fasting for Lent so she just had lobio and mchadi. Mtskheta is famous for lobio which is served in a clay pot.