Today I went to the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta where the robe that Christ wore at the Crucifixion is buried, accompanied by the mantle of the Prophet Elias and a fragment of the True Cross. This abundance of relics has made it the most venerated site within Georgia and the religious home of the Patriarch.
We were shown around by a vigorous elderly lady, dressed in somber black, who knew no English but had learnt her tour by rote and had it by memory. She had been a history teacher, we discovered, and now supplemented her meager pension by giving tours.
There is an operatic story of the cathedral's reconstruction in the middle ages, symbolized outside, and high up, by a bas-relief of a hand holding an architect's instrument. The said architect was young, arrogant and fatally in love with the same woman admired by the King. Through the machinations of an older, displaced architect, the King had the young architect's right arm severed leading to his death. The Church banished the woman to a convent but she chose suicide instead and the King, remorse filled, abandoned his throne for the woods and his grave! I can see it now, suitable for Donizetti perhaps!
Within the Church was an unusual fresco (re-painted in 17th century) of the Psalms of David (of which the lower part is given below)- of all creation singing its praise and in the middle Christ sits in glory within two circles - an inner one of the Apostles and an outer one of the signs of the zodiac. Every day is marked by the creative activity of God - and Christ transforms fate into destiny. It is very beautiful and joyful.
The surrounding town is having a radical face-lift that rather gives it the character of a film set awaiting actors but no doubt it will settle down with time and ageing into a felt place again.
The wider surroundings were beautiful broken out in spring green and by the roadside people sold baskets of gathered lilac branches in purple, pink and blue hues.