Next to Rezo Gabriadze’s clock, on the Shavtelidze Street, there is located the oldest church in Tbilisi that has survived. King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s son Dachi built it at the beginning of the 6th century. In the past, this church was known as a church of the “bells” because it was the only one place where ringing the bells was permitted. (During the domination of Arabs.)
Anchiskhati Basilica is a three-span basilica which is a very important monument of an early stage Georgian architecture.
Earlier the church was named after St Mary. However, it was called “Anchiskhati” in the 17th century. The name comes from Ancha’s Monastery (now located on the territory of Turkey). A famous icon of the Savior was taken from Ancha. The story of this miraculous icon is connected to a legend about the king of Edessa.
During the time when Jesus was still alive, the king of Edessa became very sick. He knew about the Savior’s power and miracles that he has done, so the king sent him a letter. He asked Christ to visit him and heal his illnesses. He promised that he would meet Jesus in a great way, with big respect in his kingdom. However, the savior refused as he knew about his destiny that he had another path in his life.
That’s why the king decided to send an artist to paint the face of Jesus. The artist tried many times but he could not paint his face. Then the Savior took the canvas and put his face on it. The face of Jesus miraculously appeared on this canvas and he gave it to the artist. This icon made some miracles even on the way to the King. When he got the present, he kissed the icon with big respect and at this moment the king was cured.
They put the Ancha icon of the Savior in the entrance of the city. It was there for 200 years. However, for the reason that Christians were persecuted, they transferred this icon in Cappadocia and then to Kartli for the same reason. This is how the icon got in Georgia in the old church, from the 17th century. The name “Anchiskhati” comes from that, as “Khati” means “icon” in Georgian.
Nowadays, the copy of the icon is located in the church and an original one is in the museum. The church was reconstructed as it was several centuries old. During the restoration, the oldest layers of the building were found, its floor traces and fragments of the frescoes which date back to the 17th century.
When you visit this church you feel the history and the power of the faith. Anchiskhati stands proudly as it has survived for many centuries and it is gladly welcoming every visitor.
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