Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tbilisi Builds New Cathedral

The Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral is commonly known, even in the West, as "Sameba" from the Georgian სამება,"Trinity." It is the seat of the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In May of 1989 the Patriarch, in conjunction with the civil authorities in Tbilisi, announced an international contest to build a new cathedral, to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ and the 1,500th anniversary of the autonomy (technically called "autocephaly") of the Georgian church. In a two-stage selection process the design of Archil Mindiashvili was selected from among hundreds. On November 23 (St. George's Day), 1995, the cornerstone was laid and exactly nine years later the church was consecrated by Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II and representatives of fellow Orthodox churches from around the world. Also in attendance were political leaders and religious figures from non-Orthodox communities.

The new cathedral is a synthesis of traditional Georgian architectural styles from a variety of periods in Georgian history. The church is cruciform in layout with nine chapels, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, Saint Nino, Saint George, Saint Nicholas, the Twelve Apostles, each of the three Archangels and All Saints. The interior paintings are currently being done by a team of artists under the direction of Amiram Goglidze.

Sameba Cathedral is not only the primary building of the Georgian Orthodox Church, but also the largest church in the south Caucuses and among the largest Orthodox churches in the world. The complex also includes a freely-standing bell-tower, the Patriarch's residence, a monastery, a seminary, theological academy and several workshops.

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