St. George Temple (Kashveti), Tbilisi
On Rustaveli Avenue, across from the Parliament Building, is St. George’s Church, also called Kashveti Church. The current church was built here in 1910 on the foundations of an older, crumbling church. The famous Samtavisi Cathedral was the basis of the design for this church, and today Kashveti is well-known for its miraculous image of St. David and exquisitely painted altar with stone latticework.
The first church built on this spot appeared in the 6th century, and the story of how it was built is partly related to David Gareja, one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers preaching Christianity in Georgia. The group of monks arrived in Georgia, stopping first at Mtskheta before heading out in all directions through the country. David went to Tbilisi and settled on Mount Mtatsminda, visiting the city every week to preach. Once, a woman approached David and accused him of impregnating her. David predicted that she was a liar, and that she would give birth to a stone. On her due date, she did indeed give birth to a stone. The church where David had been preaching was renamed Kashveti, from “kva” (stone) and “shva” (giving birth). David later left Tbilisi and founded the monastery at David Gareja.
There have been several churches on this site, with Kashveti just being the most recent. Before the 1910 church, the St. George Church was built here in 1753 using funds from the old princely Amilakhvari family. But in the 150 years since its construction, it had become considerably dilapidated and at the end of the 19th century, the people decided to build a new church. Money for construction was collected from wealthy families and businessmen.
Construction lasted for six years, and finished in 1910. The architect was Leopold Bilfeldt, a German and longtime resident of Tbilisi who designed many buildings in the city. The construction was supervised by Leonardo Lorinzetti, a talented Italian builder, and the ornamentation and decoration was done by the brothers Agladze, who were local masters. The older brother, Neophyte Agladze, was considered the best stone carver in all of Georgia.
Later, Neophyte Agladze would save the church. In the 1920s, the Soviet government was closing and destroying churches. Agladze found out that his work was to be demolished soon, and told his friend, the artist Gigo Gabashvili. Gabashvili asked for help from a friend in Moscow, and soon the demolishing of the church was canceled.
Today, Kashveti Church is an excellent example of Georgian, Italian and German collaboration, and is one of the best classical architectural monuments in Tbilisi.