Svetitskhovloba in Georgia

October 14

Svetitskhoveli or Svetitskhovloba takes place in the town of Mtskheta, one of the oldest cities of Georgia and its former capital. The festival celebrates Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Mtskheta as a whole.

Legend has it that the cathedral stands on the site chosen by Saint Nino (a woman who preached Christianity in Georgia in the 4th century) for the first Georgian Church. As the original building was destroyed during one of many wars plaguing the region, the current Svetitskhoveli was built in the first half of the 11th century by the architect Arsukidze, who had been commissioned by Melchizedek I, the first Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

Svetitskhoveli is believed to hold the robe in which Jesus was crucified, known as the chiton. A Georgian Jew from Mtskheta was said to have bought the robe from a Roman soldier after Jesus' death and brought it to Georgia. Upon arrival, he met his sister Sidonia, who touched the robe and died instantly from strong emotion. As they were unable to pull the chiton out of her grasp, it was buried along with Sidonia.

Today, Svetitskhoveli is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a complex of Mtskheta historical monuments Thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit the site annually to pay homage to its history and sacral importance. On Svetitskhovloba, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia comes to conduct a special ceremony, including a mass baptism. A series of concerts and cultural performances are also held, in which people don traditional costumes to dance, sing and enjoy delicious Georgian cuisine. Festivities last the whole day and are an excellent way to learn more about the traditions and culture of Mtskheta.