Church builders in Georgia must have all had the same thought process:
“Hmmm, I think I’ll build a church. Better put it in an impressive location. How about here? No, not dramatic enough. Over there? Well, nice, but still, does it scream ‘magestic’? No, try again…….Ah, there it is, the perfect hill! Everyone will bug their eyes out when they get a load of this breathtaking view.”
By the time we arrived in Mtskheta, a city about 20K from Tbilisi, it was evening and we didn’t have a map. Not knowing where to find food at that hour, we bought our dinner from a scantily-stocked mini mart across from our guest house. Fortunately, our room was adjacent to an outdoor rooftop, where we took our mini mart canned fish and crackers to dine.
Dinner? Not great. The view? Ahhhhh!
See that church on the hill? That’s one of those patented Georgian churches, with the location perfectly chosen for maximum impact.
Jvari Monastery is a 6th century (still active) Orthodox Christian church. Naturally, Jvari is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Doesn’t it appear to emerge straight from the rock?
The next morning we hired a man from our guest house to drive us to Jvari, since there’s no public transportation. Half way there the medium between the highway was suddenly filled with sheep, hundred and hundreds of them (and a few goats yelling “Mom!”). We didn’t start recording this video until the main wave of sheep had passed, but you get the idea.
The monastery overlooks the junction of two rivers (lower left, outside the frame of the picture.)
The shape of the church, cruciform with four apses and four niche-chapels, is considered a prototype of Georgian ecclesiastical earchitecture.
Gorgeous carving over the entry.
I’m not sure who this fellow, from the Northside of the structure, is supposed to be, but I’d like to think it’s the architect himself saying “Can I get a high five for choosing this awesome location for my church?”
The base of the wooden cross marks the spot where a cross was in the 4th century, shortly after the official conversion to Christianity of the East Georgian Kingdom.. For this reason Jvari is also known as The Holy Cross Monastery.
Jvari is very much a live spiritual space. Even the tourists approached with a high degree of reverence. During our visit a motorcycle posse arrived and proceeded to light candles and bow their heads in their leather jackets. (Note, HOB was not part of the motorcycle gang, in case you were confused).
How we got to Mtskheta: marshrutka from Kutaisi.
Where we slept: Guest House Armazi. Price: €23 for a double. Recommended: yes.