Construction of the present cathedral began in the 11th Century. During this period, Georgia had finished its battles for national unity and Georgia began to enter a period of architectural, philosophical, political, and economic prosperity.
Svetitskhoveli is just one of many of Georgia’s most famous cathedrals to be built, with others being Alaverdi, Bagrati, Samtavro, and Nikortsminda Cathedrals all have a similar architectural form.
Unlike these other cathedrals, however, Svetitskhoveli is notable for its stepped-front, which is composed of three separate levels (including the main cathedral itself).
Stonework on the cathedral’s western (Front) facade
The importance of Svetitskhoveli is inseparable from Georgian history, particularly its ancient history.
The first church here was built by King Mirian during the 430s C.E.
The initial structure was a wooden church. During the 5th Century, King Vakhtang Grogasali had given the church independence in Georgia (he separated the leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Church from the monarchy).
By this time, Mtskheta had become the primary Christian center for the entire Caucasus, and therefore, the small wooden church would no longer suffice.
The central dome of the cathedral
During the 11th Century, Georgian church architecture saw two new introductions–the barrel vault and a central dome.
These two changes drastically changed the look of Georgian churches, bringing them more in line with the churches that were being constructed across Europe and during this time.
Svetitskhoveli was completed in 1029 C.E. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral became the central component and location of Mtskheta’s architectural ensemble (Samtavro Monastery, Jvari Monastery and the fortress complex that surrounds the cathedral).
Interior of the cathedral with the structure that holds the robes of Jesus Christ in the center-right.
Located inside the cathedral are numerous items of historical and cultural importance.
Upon entering the cathedral from the main doorway is a small stone baptismal font which was the first such font in Georgia and is the place where King Mirian, the Georgian king who converted Georgia to Christianity, was baptized.
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Along the southern wall is a small minarature church, which was built between the 14-15th Centuries.
This small church is a replica of the basilica located on Golgotha Hill–the place where Jesus Christ was crucified–by the order of Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV to assist pilgrims who couldn’t reach Jerusalem, calling Mtskheta “the second Jerusalem.”
The most notable relic of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is the mantle of Christ, which is located along a column in the center of the church.
Interior of the central dome of the cathedral
Interred in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral are numerous members of Georgian kings, such as Vakhtang Gorgasali, King Erekle II,and King Giorgi XII of Kartli-Kakheti.