Anchiskhati Basilica - the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi

Anano Chikhradze | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Next to Re[zo Gabriadze](’s clock, on Shavtelidze Street, there is located the oldest surviving church in Tb[ilisi]( King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s son, Dachi, built it at the beginning of the 6th century. In the past, this church was known as the church of the “bells” because it was the only place where ringing the bells was permitted (during the domination of Arabs).

Anchiskhati Basilica is a three-span basilica and it is a very important monument of an early stage Georgian architecture.

© Istock/Borisb17

The story of the King of Edessa

Earlier the church was named after St Mary. However, it was then called “Anchiskhati” in the 17th century. The name comes from Ancha’s Monastery (now located on the territory of Turkey). A famous icon of the Savior was taken from Ancha. The story of this miraculous icon is connected to a legend about the king of Edessa.

When Jesus was still alive, the king of Edessa got very sick. He knew about the Savior’s power and miracles, so he decided to send him a letter. He asked Christ to visit him and heal his illnesses. He promised that he would meet Jesus in a great way, with big respect in his kingdom. However, the Savior refused as he knew about the king's destiny: he had another path in life.

© Istock/svarshik

The Ancha Icon of the Savior

Then the King decided *to send an artist to paint an icon of Jesus' face to his honor.* The artist tried many times, but he could not paint it. That was when the Savior himself took the canvas from the artist and placed his face on it. The face of Jesus is said to have miraculously appeared on this canvas and that the Savior gave it to the artist himself. This icon has been responsible for many miracles since then . When the King received this majestic present from the artist, he kissed the icon with big respect, and at that moment, his illness got completely cured! 

© Istock / NickMelnichenko

They put the Ancha icon of the Savior at the entrance of the city. It was there for 200 years. However, when the Christians were persecuted, the icon was transferred to Cappadocia and then to Kartli. This is how the icon got to Georgia's old church. The name "Anchiskhati" comes from that, as "Khati" means "icon" in Georgian.

Nowadays, a copy of the icon is located in the church, and the original is in the museum. The church was reconstructed as it was several centuries old. During the restoration, the oldest layers of the building were found: its floor traces and fragments of the frescoes, dating back to the 17th century.

When you visit this church, you feel the history and the power of the faith. Anchiskhati* stands proudly as it has survived for many centuries, and it is gladly welcoming every visitor.*

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