Jvari (Holy Cross) Church is near Tbilisi, about a three hour walk or half hour drive. It looms over Mtskheta. Before Georgia became reasonably prosperous it used to be a full day excursion, now it a common picnic spot for people wanting to get out of town for an hour or two. It is the spot where the King Mirian, who was converted to Christianity by St. Nino and, in turn made Georgian a Christian nation (Georgia was a “Christian” country before Rome) erected a cross to mark his, and his nation’s conversion. The church itself was built to shelter the cross (which I am sure has been replaced several times, but there still is a big cross inside the church) in the 6th century. The church dominates the view for those entering Tbilisi from the West.
In the valley below the church, Mtskheta, the old Georgian capital has a nicely reconstructed old town whose centerpiece is the Svetitskhoveli Patriarchal Temple, built in the 11th century. It is built on the site of a column that no one could move until St. Nino, moved it with prayer.
There is another historic site at Mtskheta. Samtravo Church is currently part of a nunnery. But it was built as the palace church and marks the grave of King Mirian and Queen Nana. The most interesting thing at this church is the grave of St. Gabriel, a priest who died in 1995. I asked the cabbie, David about this site because the grave was surrounded by people kneeling, praying, and rubbing dirt from the grave into their skins. David could not explain so he called a friend who told me the story in English. Gabriel had been persecuted by the Communists. He was a wise, and gentle, man who made predictions (including that the final battle with the anti-Christ would be televised.) He was tortured for his visions and works. Those works, included what David’s friend on the phone called “crazy things, I do not know what you call these crazy things in English.” He paused. “Yes I do, these crazy things are called miracles.”