Samtavro Monastery

Mtskheta is the ancient capital of Georgia and its spiritual center. It is not for nothing that ancient Georgian sources called the city “the second Jerusalem.” In the place where Saint Nina, Equal to the Apostles, the enlightener of Georgia, preached, for many centuries there is the beautiful Samtavro Church. Now there is a small women’s stauropegic monastery of St. Nino. The Samtavro Monastery keeps many shrines: the blackberry tree of St. Nina (Makvlovani), part of the Life-Giving Pillar of Svetitskhoveli, the miraculous icons of the Mother of God “Iverskaya” and St. Nina, the relics of St. Gabriel Urgebadze. The Samtavrsky convent has existed for 17 centuries.

History of Samtavro

After the death of Saint Nina in Bodbe, King Mirian built a small temple near the blackberry tree where she preached – now it is the chapel “Small Church of Saint Nino”. The first church on this site is believed to have been built in the 4th century by King Mirian III. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt many times. In the first half of the 11th century, during the reign of George I, by order of Catholicos-Patriarch Melchizedek I, the temple was expanded, the southern gate was added and decorated with original ornaments, which have no analogues in Georgian architecture. The temple interior was also decorated.

The cross-domed Samtavro-Preobrazhensky Church, the small Church of St. Nina, the bell tower of the 15th-17th centuries, the cylindrical tower-fortress of the 18th century, the temple iconostasis of the 15th century, and frescoes of the 17th century have been preserved. In the southern gate is the Church of Michael the Archangel. There are two churches in the northern wing of the temple. Eastern – St. John the Baptist, western St. John Chrysostom. To the left of the large altar is the altar, to the right is the Church of Saints Mirian and Nana.

The great saint of our time, known throughout the world, Elder Gabriel (Urgebadze), through his prayers, ended his life in the Samtavro Monastery and for the last 10 years has been the confessor of the monastery, and now its spiritual patron. His Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II has a special affection for the monastery, since his godmother was Abbess Samtavro, and in his childhood His Holiness repeatedly visited the monastery, where the Lord vouchsafed him with His visit and insight.

About 70 sisters currently live in the monastery. Two novices, the rest are nuns and nuns. Abbess Ketevan Kopaliani actually restored the monastery, gave it new life, and was awarded two crosses for her activities. The way of life, or the Charter, in the monastery of Athos, Iveron Monastery. Night vigils are held every night. At 03:20 we get up, cell rule until 4 am, then at four – midnight office. It continues until 06:30, then one and a half to two hours of rest and the liturgy. The first prayers began to be offered here in the 4th century, when Saint Nina lived here. Since the 5th century, an episcopal see and a monastery appeared. A convent was founded in 1820. The renewer of monastic life was Nina (Amilakhvari the Elder), who was canonized along with her niece, the abbess of the monastery Nina (Amilakhvari the Younger), and Tamar (Marjanishvili), on the same day – December 22, 2016. By the way, for the first time in the history of the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2016, abbess were canonized, and, this is an interesting point, two saints of them are from the Samtavro monastery.

Abbess Nino Amilakhvari was born in 1787 in the village. Chala. In 1810 she took monastic vows. She lived in the Samtavri monastery for 51 years. I traveled a lot around Georgia and Russia, collecting donations. For her activities she was even awarded a special order – a cross.

In the 20s In the 20th century, after the Bolsheviks came to Georgia, the monastery was closed, 1 room was allocated for the nuns, and a women’s labor artel was organized in the monastery. Then the Mtskheta hospital was located in the monastery building. A little later, half of the building was given to the Mtskheta Theological Seminary (the only theological educational institution at that time; those wishing to continue their studies went to Greece or Zagorsk, including the current Patriarch Ilia II who studied at the Zagorsk Theological Academy), the seminary bore the name of St. Andrew the First-Called). In 1988, the seminary was moved to Tbilisi. According to one of the former seminarians, such proximity of the seminary to the convent brought great benefits to the seminarians – being in special peace and tranquility, they learned a lot from the nuns.

Abbess Ketevan (Kopoliani)

Considered the spiritual mother of all Georgia. She spiritually educated the abbess of many convents in Georgia. For the Samtavro sisters, the spiritual father is Patriarch Ilia II and the spiritual mother is Abbess Ketevan, who has a big loving heart and bears all sorrows and illnesses with patience and humility. For many years she was a novice under the Patriarch; she was sent as a nun to Samtavro, where the Monk Gabriel (Urgebadze) spiritually supported her. Before being tonsured as a monk, Father Vitaly (Sidorenko) put the mantle on Mother Ketevan and presented the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Abbess”. She writes spiritual poems, and chants based on these poems are sung on major national holidays. The most important thing: it carries within itself love and kindness for every person, for its Patriarch and Motherland, love in Christ. A book about Abbess Ketevan is currently being prepared for publication in Moscow.

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