Georgia brings shrine back to life

A unique mediaeval monastery has been restored in the Tskhvarichamia health retreat near Tbilisi, Georgian capital.

Its oldest cathedral - a three-aisle basilica - was built in the 7th and 8th centuries of Rikoti stone, which has no analogue outside Georgia, say experts of the Moscow-based theological research centre, The Orthodox Christian Encyclopaedia.

The cathedral was consecrated last week. Elijah II, Patriarch Catholicos of All Georgia, was the first to serve liturgy in the revived house of prayer. The shrine is now open to pilgrims and itinerant monks.

A recreation centre established round the cathedral in the Soviet years eventually came into decay to be ransacked by the local public.

His Beatitude Elijah II appealed to his flock a year ago to restore the monastery and turn it into a hostelry for the travelling clergy and lay pilgrims. Twelve months' dedicated work brought ample fruit - the revived shrine rivals the Trinity Cathedral on Mount Elia in Tbilisi, the largest Eastern Christian church in the Caucasus, says the Patriarch.

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