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Metekhi Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is located in the ancient historical district of Metekhi, on the left bank of the Mtkvari River, in old Tbilisi.
The main sanctuary of the temple is the tomb of St. Shushanik. After the ecclesiastical split between the Armenians and the Georgians at the beginning of the 7th century, Catholicos Kyrion transferred the remains of the saint from the small town of Tsurtavi to the Metekhi temple. The remains of the Holy Queen are in the deacons place. It is known that Queen Tamar adorned the body of the Blessed Queen with gilded clothes and paid special homage to her.
Earlier, the temple had its own icon carved in the 17th century - the infant Virgin, who was lost during the invasion of the Kizilbash.
Also, according to legend, the Metekhi rock was supposed to be the place of torture of Abo (VIII century), who is the patron saint of Tbilisi. A small church is built after his name at the foot of the rock.
Metekhi Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is one of the oldest churches built in Tbilisi. Researchers confirm that the temple was built in the 6th century. King Vakhtang I Gorgasali erected a church, a castle and a palace here, which also served as the king's residence. The temple symbolized the temple of the Virgin Mary in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
The name of the temple should be connected with the icon of the Mother of God of Metekhi resting in the church. In historical sources, this temple is referred to as "Metekhani" or "Metekhta". The historian himself calls the temple "Isanta" and not "Metekhi". It was erected "to house the" icon "of the Mother of God of Metekhi." This icon must have been highly respected. As temple was presented to the people as the residence of the "Mother of God of Metekhi", this name was established earlier. It is noteworthy that in all ancient documents before the XVII century the name is used in the plural.
In the VIII-XI centuries Metekhi was the residence of Amira of Tbilisi. In Georgian historical sources, the Metekhi rock is mentioned in the XI-XIII centuries as a strong fortified fortress, where the chambers of the Bagratov kings were located.
"Metekhi" is found in historical sources of the XII century. In 628, a new church was built instead of the one destroyed by the Khazars. According to Queen Tamar's historian Basil, when the king sent the Georgian army in 1195 at the Battle of Shamkori, she came to Metekhi Cathedral barefoot and prayed for Georgia with tears. During the reign of King Rusudan, in 1226, the Mongols again destroyed the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in Metekhi.
In the second half of the 17th century, the Metekhi temple was abandoned and damaged. In 1660 the church was damaged by a thunderstorm. In the first half of the 18th century, a Turkish and then a Persian garrison was stationed in Metekhi fortress.
In the 1690s, King Erekle I, along with Nazarli-Khan Mametekhi Fortress, handed over the church to the Persians, who continued to use it as a weapons depot. The church was repaired only after king Erekle II defeated Abdullah-Beg in 1748. He repaired the damaged church and restored its dome.
In 1795 the temple was again damaged during the invasion of Aghamahmadkhan. From 1798 to 1800, the church was built by King George XII. After 1801, the Metekhi Church continued to operate. In 1819, by order of General Ermolov, the old fortress was destroyed and instead was build a two-story building (around the rock) which was used as a jail. After that, the former Isani fortress was renamed to Metekhi Prison, and the church was turned into a prison church. The overall architecture of Metekhi has changed: new barrack-type buildings have emerged around the church instead of a multi-tower fence.
After the establishment of the Soviet government, the Metekhi prison was abolished in 1934. The buildings of the barracks built around Metekhi in 1937 were demolished. During the Great Purge, Lavrenti Beria decided to demolish the church, but he met with strong opposition. This was led by artist Dimitri Shevardnadze. Beria offered to create a reduced replica (copy) of the church for the museum, which was strongly rejected by the latter. Shevardnadze was arrested and later sentenced to death for resisting. Nevertheless, the building was still saved.
For a long time the temple was inactive. Since 1979, the State Youth Drama Theater-Studio has been operating performing there as "Metekhi Theater". Later, the temple was turned into an artist's workshop.
In May 1988, with the blessing of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, a new cross was erected on the church and the liturgy was resumed. The parishioners of the church repaired the iconostasis of the looted temple.
There is a legend about the founding of Metekhi. The Ossetian chief Bakatari kidnapped Vakhtang's three years old sister, Khvarami,. The king decided to save his sister. Sister secretly sent message to Vakhtang: If you still want the fight against Bakatari, keep in mind that he walks with a total armor, he can be killed only if you cut him in the groin. Bakhatar swore to him: Until I cross the water, do not shoot the arrow and don't start fight. Vakhtang broke his oath and threw an arrow at Bakatar. As Vakhtang broke his oath, he built the Metekhi Temple for repentance, which means "I broke my oath."
One of the other legends tells us that once King Vakhtang and Osbakatari got into fight. Vakhtang overcame enemy and shouted: "Break the enemy". As a sign of this, he built churches in Tbilisi and the village of Metekhi.
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