Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities of Georgia, it is located approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Tbilisi. As the birthplace and one of the most vibrant centers of Christianity in Georgia, Mtskheta was declared as the “Holy City” by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2014. Due to its historical significance and several cultural monuments, the “Historical Monuments of Mtskheta” became a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site. Mtskheta was founded in the 5th century.
The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral ( literally the Cathedral of the Living Pillar) is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral located in Mtskheta. A masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages, Svetitskhoveli is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is currently the second largest church building in Georgia, after the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Known as the burial site of Christ’s mantle, Svetitskhoveli has long been one of the principal Georgian Orthodox churches and is among the most venerated places of worship in the region. It was built in the early fourth century. According to Georgian hagiography, in the 1st century AD a Georgian Jew from Mtskheta named Elias was in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. Elias bought Jesus’ robe from a Roman soldier at Golgotha and brought it back to Georgia. Returning to his native city, he was met by his sister Sidonia who upon touching the robe immediately died from the emotions engendered by the sacred object. The robe could not be removed from her grasp, so she was buried with it.The place where Sidonia is buried with Christ’s robe is preserved in the Cathedral. Later, from her grave grew an enormous cedar tree. Ordering the cedar chopped down to build the church, St. Nino had seven columns made from it for the church’s foundation. The seventh column, however, had magical properties and rose by itself into the air. It returned to earth after St. Nino prayed the whole night. It was further said that from the magical seventh column a sacred liquid flowed that cured people of all diseases.In Georgian sveti means “pillar” and tskhoveli means “life-giving” or “living”, hence the name of the cathedral. An icon portraying this event can be seen on the second column on the right-hand from the entrance. Reproduced widely throughout Georgia, it shows Sidonia with an angel lifting the column in heaven.
Jvari Monastery is a sixth century Georgian Orthodox monastery near Mtskheta, eastern Georgia. Along with other historic structures of Mtskheta, it is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Jvari means cross in English. Jvari Monastery stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the town of Mtskheta. According to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over the Caucasus. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. In the late Middle Ages, the complex was fortified by a stone wall and gate, remnants of which still survive.
Samtavro Transfiguration Orthodox Church and Nunnery of St. Nino in Mtskheta. It was built in the 4th century. The famous Georgian monk Gabriel is buried in the yard of Samtavro Church.Eastwards of the Church there is a small early medieval church of St. Nino. Its mural paintings are dated to 19th century. On the North of the Church there is a three storied bell tower of 15-16th centuries. A cylindrical tower of 18th century is preserved in the wall of the monastery that was restored in 19th century. Samtavro convent, together with other historical monuments of Mtskheta has been inscribed upon the World Heritage List of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage since 1994. The first Christian royal couple – King Mirian and Queen Nana are buried here.