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Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a monument of Georgian architecture, cross-domed temple, located on the lower right bank of the Mtkvari in Tbilisi, Zemo Kala, Old Tbilisi, Tbilisi Cathedral (Episcopal) from the 5th century to the present, and since 1920 the Patriarchal Cathedral.
Sioni Complex includes a fence, the Cathedral of the Assumption, two bell towers.
The name Sioni is derived from the name of a sacred mountain in Jerusalem. It is a Hebrew word meaning sunny. There are many churches named after Sioni in Georgia and all of them are named after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of which the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi is of special historical significance.
The largest sanctuary of the Georgian Orthodox Church - St. Nino's cross is located here.
The temple also houses a miraculous stone of grace brought from Jerusalem by St. David of Gareja.
In the Temple of Sion, south of the iconostasis, in the wall, is the skull of the Apostle St. Thomas. In the sanctuary, under the altar, is buried the martyr who was martyred in the 6th century. Parts of Evstati of Mtskheta. The remains of Bishop John Mangleli (1666-1751) are buried in the White Stone cave of the southern walls in front of the door of the sacristy. In front of the altar and under the domed towers are burried the Catholicos-Patriarchs of Georgia: Kirion II (1855-1918), Leonidas (1861-1921), Ambrose (1861-1927), Christopher (1873-1932), Callistratus (1863-1952), Melchizedek III (1872-1960), the tombs of Ephrem II (1896-1972) and David V (1903-1977), in the western arm - the poet Vakhtang Orbeliani (1812-1890).
Several distinctive icons of the Georgian Church are resting in Sioni: the icon of the Savior, the icons of the All-Holy Mother of God of Iveria and the Blessed Virgin Mary of Sioni, St. Barbara, St. Nino, St. George, St. Nicholas, "Glory of the Georgian Church", St. Seraphim of Sarov.
The first church on the site of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sioni must have been built here during the reign of Vakhtang Gorgasali as the Episcopal Cathedral, as evidenced by the fact that one of the participants in the Dvina ecclesiastical assembly was Bishop Isaac (Saak) of Tbilisi. The temple was based on the plan of the temple erected in the Garden of Gethsemane at the place of the Assumption. Construction continued during the reign of the heir to the throne Dachi (499-514) and the chief of Kartli Guaram Kurapalat (514-599). Construction, which involved both Eristavi and the city dwellers, was completed during the reign of Eristavar Adarnase (619-639) in the 620s. A wealthy widow, whose identity is unknown, also contributed to the construction of the temple.
In 1226, Jalal ad-Din, the Shah of Khwarazm, captured Tbilisi. At his command, Sion's dome was removed and his throne was erected there. Sitting on this throne, he watched the martyrs who did not insult the icons of the Savior and the Virgin Mary, taken from the Temple of Sioni and resting on the Metekhi Bridge. The dome seems to have been restored soon after.
In 1386, Temurleng demolished the building of the Temple of Sioni, which was rebuilt by Alexander I. In 1522, Shah Ismail looted an icon adorned with the precious stones of the Virgin of Sion and then gave it into the Mtkvari. In 1556 the temple was again destroyed by Shah Tamaz and in 1616 by Shahabaz.
In 1668 an earthquake damaged the temple again. In 1710, King Vakhtang VI rebuilt the dome of the temple, paved the roof, and covered the roof with Bolnisi tuff stone.
In 1723, Constantine II the King of Kakheti, defeated Vakhtang VI with the help of the Lek army and took Tbilisi .Today, the icon called "Mother of God of Sioni" is a copy of the old one, made in 1764 in Moscow by order of George, son of Vakhtang VI. The shirt of the icon was lost in the twentieth century.
The last major damage to the building was during the 1795 invasion of the governor of Iran, Agha Mohammad Khan, by a fire in the Sioni Cathedral that destroyed a seventeenth-century wall painting and iconostasis. In 1804, after the unification of Georgia with Russia, the ruling prince Tsitsianov re-painted the Temple of Sioni.
After the establishment of the Soviet government, the churches of Tbilisi were deprived of their property, including the bells of the Sioni Cathedral, which last rang on January 27, 1931. In 1978-1979, the western part of the temple was re-painted by L. By Tsutskiridze. The temple was last renovated in 1983. The iconostasis was made according to the old Georgian patterns. In 2001-2003, the gate to the west of Sioni Temple was built.
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