The Legendary Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta

11th Century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Georgia. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Svetitskhoveli, burial site of Christ' Mantle. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site  and one of the most venerated places of worship for Georgian OrthodoxChristians; the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is located in the historical town of Mtsketa, the old capital of Georgia.  The site where the cathedral stood dates back to as early as the 4th century although the cathedral itself was built by a Georgian architect in the 11th century.

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Svetitskhoveli, the second largest church structure in Georgia. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

According to Georgian religious writings, a Georgian Jew named Elias who was in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified bought Jesus’ robe from a Roman soldier in Golgotha and brought it back to Georgia.  Elias’ sister, Sidonia, upon seeing the robe, touched it but immediately died and was buried  in Mtskheta with Jesus’ robe which got stuck in her grasp.  From Sedonia’s grave later rose an enormous cedar tree which was cut and made into the seven columns for the church’s foundation.  “Life-giving pillar”  — the literal meaning of  Svetitskhoveli makes reference to the seventh column made from the cedar tree which was believed to possess miraculous powers.

Rear facade of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Entrance to the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

A defensive wall designed with military purposes was built around the cathedral in the late 1700’s but the compound has gone through a series of restoration works from the damages it endured from wars and earthquakes.

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is the second largest church structure in Georgia (the biggest is the more recent Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi) and has been the coronation and burial site of Georgian kings.  At least ten kings are known to have been buried inside the cathedral, six of which were found before the altar and identifiable with their insignia upon the tombs.

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View of Mtskheta and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral from a nearby hill. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

View of Svetitskhoveli and its surrounding buildings from across the river. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Renovation of the buildings surrounding the cathedral was still on-going when I visited in April 2011. The sky was cloudy and some rain poured before we arrived.  While the weather deprived me of desirable sunlight, long shadows and blue skies; it provided the photos I took with a clean white background and glassy reflections on the wet pavement, giving more prominence and sense of mystery to the structures.  No regrets.

A defensive wall was built around the cathedral in late 1700s. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Approach to the legendary Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

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