The afternoon sun casts historic Metekhi Church in a vibrant golden color on a recent winter day in the old city of Tbilisi, Georgia. Located on a cliff overlooking the Mtkvari River, the Metekhi Church dates back to the 12th century when, according to historical accounts, King Vaktang Gorgasali erected a church and a fort on this famous cliff in Tbilisi. Metekhi Church is also believed to be situated on the same site as where the 5th century martyr lady Saint Shushanik was buried.
Amid the “Great Purges,” the Georgian Communist chief Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria plotted to destroy Metekhi Church, but met a stubborn opposition from a group of Georgian intellectuals led by the painter and art collector Dimitri Shevardnadze. Metekhi Church was preserved during this tumultuous period, but the artist Shevardnadze was imprisoned and later executed.
Tbilisi is the capital and largest city in Georgia and has historically been home to peoples of diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, though today it’s overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox Christian. Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia for more than 1,500 years.