Visiting the Holy City Mtskheta, Georgia

Would you believe me if I say that I haven’t seen the inside part of a cathedral or a monastery?  I did see them in TV or in the movies but in person? No.

There was a time when I passed by one, especially in the Philippines where Christianity is one of the major religions, and thought, “How does the interior look like? What’s the atmosphere in there?” After a while, I forget about it and push it at the back of my head the same way I do with many other things.

Since then, whenever I do see one, I’ll end up curious. And, yes, I more or less wanted to enter in order to feed my curiosity but wasn’t brave enough because (1) I’m scared that I might bother the people inside it, (2) I feel like I’m going to be out of place, and (3) I’m just plain nervous. I haven’t been to one after all.

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Overlooking the town of Mtsketha. This is where Kura river and Aragvi river combines.

I was finally able to feed my curiosity when I went to Mtskheta, a place where historical cathedrals and monasteries are being maintained.

Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities in Georgia located north of Tbilisi. Due to the fact that it is a city where historical events took place and significant structures and monuments stand, it was only natural that it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and was later declared by the Georgian Orthodox Church  as the “Holy City” in 2014.

How cool is that?

The trip to Mtskheta was very enjoyable as you get to see beautiful scenery along the way. I always enjoyed seeing beautiful picturesque landscapes. The vibrant colored trees, vast field full of tall grass and flowers, beautiful blue sky, huge piles of rocks, and the sight of the river from far away as the bus makes its way up the mountain was something I will never forget. It’s something similar to a scene you’ll often see in Studio Ghibli films. It made me want to get out of the bus, run around, and feel the wind blowing my hair. But since I couldn’t, I let myself have the luxury of imagining myself doing it.

Jvari Monastery on a rocky mountain top

It didn’t take us long to reach our first destination and, as soon as I stepped down with my hat immediately almost flew along with the strong wind, I caught myself holding my breath. I was so amazed. Everything looked so beautiful. I felt bubbles forming in my chest and I couldn’t contain the excitement that I was feeling. It made me feel light and free!

I was there with my own company — grinning and smiling to myself.

I was able to visit Jvari Monastery, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, and Samtavro Monastery. Each monastery had significant roles in Georgia’s christian history.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Cathedral of Living Pillar) – second largest church building in Georgia and known as the burial site of Christ’s mantle.

My eyes, full of wonder, scanned each structures to imprint the details in my memory. I walked around the dark, old interior and took pictures (although I wasn’t able to take some in Jvari and Samtavro because those were active monasteries). It was the first time I stood in front of a huge cross. It was the first time I personally saw a nun light up a candle inside the cathedral and nuns tending the place carefully — dusting every nook and corner.

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Samtavro Monastery – St. Nino’s nunnery,  burial of Monk Gabriel, and the resting place of the first king and queen of Georgia.

The feeling I felt when I stepped inside a monastery, laid my eyes on and stood in front of a huge cross was nervousness. Yes, I was nervous. Should I be there? Was it alright for me to see things I don’t usually see? Am I allowed to be in it?

Nervousness, curiosity, and excitement were all mixed together. And, before I knew it, I already wandered around the place with my camera in hand.

Do I regret going inside those structures? No. I think I’ll regret it even more if I didn’t go and see it for myself. All in all, it was a good experience. And, I must say that out of all the three, my favorite structure would be Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. But, in terms of the environment and it’s surroundings, my favorite would definitely be Jvari Monastery. 🙂

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