TSETSKHLIJVROBA AND SOME OPINIONS RELATED TO IT
Tsetskhlijvari is one of the most important shrines in Mtiuleti (mountain region of eastern Georgia). Basing on the available scanty materials, somehow we tried to reconstruct the holiday linked to the shrine and put forward some of our views on its name and essence.
After many years of research and observation based on historical, archival, and field materials collected by me, I concluded that the feast is connected with the Cross of Mtskheta. From the first century to the sixth century we would distinguish three stages in the Christianization of Georgia: first, when St. Andrew, together with other apostles, joyfully tells the Georgians the story of the redemption of mankind by God. Christian communities are emerging at this time. The second stage, when in the fourth century, as a result of St. Nino’s sermons, the king of Kartli Mirian officially declared Christianity the state religion of Kartli Kingdom and institutionalized the church. The Assyrian Fathers who came to Georgia in the sixth century strengthened Dyophysitism and introduced coenobitic monasticism. The second period of the spread of Christianity in Georgia I call the “period of the cross” when similar to the erection of the main cross in Mtskheta, crosses were erected in the places of idols or the places of pagan deity worship, which was followed by the construction of churches or shrines on their sites throughout the country.
Therefore, we consider that the general name of East Georgian mountain shrines – jvar-khati (lit. cross-icon) should be related to the “period of the cross” and the Cross of Mtskheta, after which are named most of the main shrines in East Georgian mountains. The term khati (icon) should denote a local shrine, as the “icon”, “replica” of the main, Mtskheta Cross. Hence we think that if Lomisa is the shrine dedicated to the miracle of the Cross of Mtskheta (the Wednesday after Pentecost), Lashari should be celebrated on the feast day of the Mtskheta Cross, initially celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter, Tsetskhlijvari was originally supposed to be the feast on May, 7 or erection of the crosses and, like other shrines, was later associated with St. George’s Day or Epiphany and Sunday of Thomas. We think that common community shrines should have been established in the name of the Cross of Mtskheta. Those are the main shrines of the historical-ethnographic units of Kartli Kingdom and they should be related to the Cross of Mtskheta in the “period of the cross” (fourth – circa ninth centuries).
Keywords: Religious festival, Ethnology, History.