Tbilisi Attested by archaeological excavations, the territory of Tbilisi had been inhabited as early as the 4th millennium B.C. The most ancient source in which it is mentioned, belongs to the second half of the 4th century, when a fortress was erected at this location in the reign of King Varaz-Bakuri. At the end of the 4th century, Tbilisi became the residence of the Persian official – the bitakhsh. From mid 5th century, it was again under the control of Kartlian kings. St. King Vakhtang Gorgasali has been considered as the city founder, since he restored and developed it. As the legend relates, the king had sent a falcon after a pheasant, with the birds plunging into a hot spring and being scalded to death. The king apparently chopped down the forest and built the town due to the healing properties of the hot water and the advantageous location of the area. The town was called “Tbilisi” – “Tbili” (“Tpili” in Old Georgian) because of the mineral springs. Sulfur bath houses were constructed at this location later on. The place is a historic district of Tbilisi – The Bath House District (Abanotubani). Throughout the centuries, Tbilisi has not only been a political, state center, but also a vibrant hub of literary, cultural activities. The city has been historically known for its religious tolerance. A large portion of the city is Christian, with the majority being Orthodox. The Armenian Apostolic Church has a significant amount of followers. There are many Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, and other Christian denominations. A part of the population is adherents of Islam and another part being Jewish. Kurds also live in Tbilisi, with 61% of them being Yezidic. It is especially notable in Old Tbilisi with its abundance of churches or places of prayer belonging to various confessions.
The Anchiskhati Basilica is the most ancient monument in Tbilisi and the first ecclesiastical structure that has survived. It had originally been built in the 6th century, receiving the name it has today in the 17th century, when the miracle-working icon of Christ (currently kept at the Georgian State Museum of Art) was transferred from Anchi Church. The original part of the Anchiskhati Basilica had been built with hewn stone, whereas sections of the walls rebuilt with bricks, the inner columns, and the roofing belong to a restoration done by Catholicos Domenti III in the 17th century. He also erected a two-storey, bell-tower made of bricks in 1675. 19th-century additions were removed from the church during the years 1958-1964 under the guidance of Rusudan Gverdtsiteli, giving it the appearance seen today. There are 17th century murals in the chancel and those of the 19th century on the vault.
According to tradition, the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi had been built by King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century, with chronicles attesting to a big construction project between the 6th-7th centuries. After many times of being destroyed and rebuilt, Archbishop Elise (Saginashvili) of Tbilisi had the current domed church built in the 17th century. In 1710, through the initiative of King Vakhtang VI, it was faced with hewn stone and adorned with stone ornamentation and reliefs, although due to fresh damage in 1795, a great portion of the wall facing was restored in the 19th century. A Late Medieval bell-tower (the pavilion is from the 19th century) stands in the churchyard, across the street is yet one more bell-tower, erected by Russian authorities in 1811. A large portion of the church’s interior has been painted by the Russian painter Gregory Gagarin in the 1850’s, with the western section however, being adorned with the murals by Levan Tsutskiridze in the 1980’s. The vine cross weaved by St. Nino and the skull of St. Thomas the Apostle are the most precious relics out of those kept at the church, as well as the graves of those who have been canonized as saints: John Mangleli, and the Catholicoses Kyrion and Ambrose.
The Church of the Mother of God at Metekhi, or simply Metekhi, is located in the most ancient, historical district of Isani, on the left bank of the Mtkvari River, situated on a small cliff. According to tradition, the relics of St. Shushanik the Martyr have been buried at Metekhi Church. The cliff at Metekhi is the place where the patron saint of Tbilisi, St. Abo of Tbilisi was martyred (8th century). The current domed church, faced with hewn stone, had been built by St. Demetre II the Self-Sacrificer at the end of the 13th century, being restored in the 16th and 18th centuries. A miracle-working icon of the Mother of God had resided here until 1795.
The Trinity Patriarchal Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Patriarchal Cathedral is located in Tbilisi on Elia Hill in the Avlabari District. It was built during the years 1995-2004 to mark the 1500th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the 2000th year since the Nativity of Christ. The idea for erecting a new cathedral was manifested in 1989 and in the month of May, a competition was announced for the project, “Holy Trinity Cathedral”, by the Georgian Patriarch and the Tbilisi government. As a result of two stages of discussions, the project by Architect Archil Mindiashvili was selected. The foundation for the church was only laid on November 23, 1995. Church construction was primarily financed by private donations. The church was consecrated by His Holiness and Beatitude Patriarch-Catholicos of all Georgia Ilia II on November 23, 2004, the feast day of St. George. The main domed church, of a complex plan layout, is accompanied by a number of minor churches, a baptismal font, monastery buildings, public spaces, etc. Numerous sacred relics are housed in the church, among them the “stone of Grace” brought from Jerusalem by St. David Garejeli in the 6th century.
Shalva Amiranashvili Art Museum
One of the main units of the National Museum of Georgia, it is the greatest state repository and museum in Georgia for works of art. It was founded on August 5, 1932, based on the Georgian National Gallery that had been created through the initiative of Dimitri Shevardnadze in 1920. Works of art from the most ancient times to the 20th century are featured in the treasury, halls, and depositories of the museum: archaeological items, Georgian repoussé and painted icons from the Middle Ages, works of cloisonné, jewelry art, stone or wooden reliefs, mural painting and embroidery. There are also works by Georgian painters, sculptors, and masters of the “minor arts”, as well as Russian, European, and Oriental works of art.