Nana and Shota marry

Nana Mghebrishvili and Shota Kiparoidze were married in St. David’s Church on Mt. Mtatsminda, near our home; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Nana Mghebrishvili and Shota Kiparoidze were married in St. David’s Church; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Nana Mghebrishvili and Shota Kiparoidze each kissed an icon during the ceremony; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Tamaz Jalagania provided 14 swords for the wedding ceremony. The swords symbolize strength and by walking under the swords the couple will have a strong marriage. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Saint David Orthodox Church

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

We live near the top of Holy mountain (also known as Mount Mtatsminda or David Mountain), named in honor of St. David Garedzhi, who lived as a recluse in a cave on one of its slopes. At the top of the mountain is Saint David Orthodox Church (19th century). Around  the church is a small cemetery, where some of the most prominent writers, artists, scholars, and national heroes of Georgia are buried.

Here is the Tbilisi part of St. David’s story. He was born in Syria in the 6th century and became a disciple of St. John of Zedazeni and they traveled together to Georgia. St. David and a disciple, Lucian, settled on top of a mountain in Tbilisi.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

At that time, while the Tbilisi area was under constant threat from the Persian fire-worshippers, St. David spent entire days in prayer, asking the Lord to forgive the sins of those who lived in the city below. When he finished praying for the day, he would stand on the mountain and bless the city.

St. David’s authority and popularity alarmed the fire-worshippers; they accused him of adultery in order to discredit him in the eyes of the people. As a “witness,” they summoned an expectant prostitute, who accused St. David of being the child’s father. In response, the holy man touched his staff to the prostitute’s womb and ordered the unborn child to declare the truth. From out of the womb, the fetus uttered the name of his true father.

Outraged, the bystanders savagely stoned the woman to death. St. David pleaded with them to stop, but he was unable to placate the furious crowd. Deeply disturbed by these events, St. David departed the region with his disciple Lucian.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Getting to know Tbilisi

Metekhi Church and statue of King Vakhtang; copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.

This photo shows Metekhi Church and the equestrian statue of King Vakhtang on the cliffs above the Kura river, also known as the Mtkvari River. Metekhi Church was built by a Georgian king circa 1278–1284. Vakhtang was a king of Iberia, natively known as Kartli  (modern eastern Georgia) in the second half of the 5th and first quarter of the 6th century.He led his people, in an ill-fated alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire, into a lengthy struggle against Iranian hegemony, which ended in Vakhtang’s defeat and weakening of the kingdom of Iberia. Tradition also ascribes him reorganization of the Georgian church and foundation of Tbilisi, Georgia’s modern capital.

Over time, people added new homes and businesses further up the sides of the hills. Susanna and my apartment is near the top of Mt. Mtatsminda (Holy Mountain). In fact, we are directly below St. David’s Church (“Mamadaviti), where some of the most prominent writers, artists, scholars, and national heroes of Georgia are buried. From Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main street, we walk uphill for 15 minutes. If we do that twice a day, we’ve completed our exercise program, and we’ve saved the cost of a gym membership. Of course, we’re also rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.

Sergo Tbileli holding part of a mammoth tusk; copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.

During our walk around Old Tbilisi, we stopped at a few art galleries and talked with the artists. One man carves silhouette portraits out of shells and petrified mammoth tusk. He showed us a cross-section of what used to be, at least 30,000 years ago, a 2-meter-long tusk. Mammoth tusks are still found in Siberia, Canada, and Alaska, he said. This artist also looks for shells that are white on the inside and a different color, such as orange-brown, on the outside. Then he carves away some of the white shell parts so that a cameo appears against a colored background. I also liked Sergo Tbileli’s work. He covers the canvas with details—both relevant to his subject matter and also showing “hidden” objects—and by looking carefully,

observers can separate the figure from the ground. I’d buy one now except for the cost.

Georgians deserve their reputations for singing

“Where is that music coming from?”

“Is it live?”

“Let me go see.”

When I left our table and went to the other side of the restaurant, I found four young men singing, while one played an instrument (can someone tell me which instrument?) I captured one song (2 minutes) with my iPhone if you want to hear them.

What a wonderful surprise! We were eating dinner in a restaurant in Tbilisi when we heard four young men singing at a nearby table. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011.

Go here to see the video: