I had waited for the number 4 minibus for a long time so I decided to spend 10 times the amount and take a cab to the Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral. Georgians say it is the largest Orthodox Church in the world. Serbs dispute that saying St. Sava is bigger. Sameba Cathedral has a tall tower with a gilded cupola that reflects sun in the day and floodlight at night. It dominates Tbilisi. As the cab followed the route the mini-bus would have taken I discovered the problem. Police were rerouting traffic. The mini-bus was not going to stop at my corner for a long time. As we went through Old Town the driver said “In this square mile (he used mile) you have a synagogue, a mosque, an Orthodox Church and a Catholic Church. We are a very tolerant city. Where else can you find another city with so many different religions in one square mile?”
I wanted to say “New York with an ashram and a Buddhist temple thrown in to that mile” but decided to let him have his civic pride. I mean how many small Midwestern cities brag about their own “God’s Little Acre” (with no apologies to Erskine Caldwell) where they have one Catholic, two different types of Baptists, and three different types of Lutheran all within shouting distance of each other.
The Cathedral sits on a hill surrounded by a terrace and smaller, separate chapels and a bell tower. Brides pose for pictures on the terrace. A gust blew the headpiece and long veil off the head of one bride. The bridal party and assorted pilgrims chased it down and returned it to the bride, who said “Thank you so very much,” in English. Another Bride had what looked like a hoop skirt. The wind caught the hoop and blew the skirt up into her face. She grabbed the hoop and discovered she could walk more easily holding the hoop, so she did, insisting the photographer get a wedding picture of her showing leg.
Going into the church you get three impressions, cool, light and high. Walking in from the high 80’s heat the climate was refreshing. This is a new church and the walls are not covered with frescoes, although there are icons at eye level backed by marble slabs. Above it is all white, drawing eyes up to the very high cupola with its clear tall windows with small colored crosses at the top. This church has a very different feel from other Georgian Churches I’ve visited.