The legend says that the Mother of God chose Georgia as the first new land to spread Christianity. Georgia accepted Christianity in 326 AD. It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of religion for the Georgians. You can notice that every taxi-driver will cross himself passing even the most inconspicuous church. Georgia is known for plenty of churches spread throughout the country, each of them is significant in one way or another, but the most significant church is Bolnisi Sioni.
Bolnisi Sioni Cathedral is the oldest church in Georgia. The construction lasted from 478 to 493. It was the first cathedral to be built after Georgian Church gained independence from Constantinople. It’s located in the southern-eastern part of Georgia, an enchanting village of Kvemo-Bolnisi, 70 km away from Tbilisi. The design of the church differs significantly from traditional examples of Georgian temple architecture. This basilica is a rectangular building without rounded cupola, there’re two rows of arched columns with geometric patterns inside.
The exterior of the church is laconic and simple. The interior, unlike exterior, gives unforgettable impressions; it’s generously decorated with ornaments. It’s hard to exaggerate importance of Bolnisi Sioni for Georgia and its culture. It was built during the rule of famous King Vakhtang Gorgasali, when Georgia experienced strengthening in culture and politics.
Bolnisi Sioni Cathedral is also known for inscriptions on the façade; they are the first examples of Georgian writing. The eastern façade of the basilica has Bolnisi cross. This cross is pictured on the modern flag of Georgia. Bolnisi Sioni Cathedral is the only remaining church of its century that allows to imagine how Georgian cathedrals used to look like. Unfortunately, despite its importance, the cathedral is not among popular sightseeing places in Georgia. Today it looks like an ordinary museum in a remoted village.