The South Caucasus (Transcaucasia) is an old region full of unique religious sights which are annually visited by pilgrims from all over the world.
Today we are going to tell you the amazing historical facts of this region and also some of the most important religious sights and a list of best religious tours around the South Caucasus region.
If you’re planning to explore Armenia, Georgia and Azarbaijan our article will be a great guide for you!
Armenia is one of the most popular destinations of all Christians in the world for pilgrimage, because the Armenians were the first to adopt Christianity as the state religion.
In 301, King Trdat, after witnessing the great miracle and being healed after the prayers of Gregory the Illuminator, refused the paganism and adopted Christianity. Christian temples and churches were built all over the country, and each of them became a holy place to all Armenians. Below you can get acquainted with the most important religious monuments of Armenia:
The history of the adoption of Christianity in Armenia is strongly associated with Khor Virap Monastery. Originally there was a deep pit filled with poisonous snakes, scorpions and insects on the site of the monastery. The pit was used as a dungeon. Gregory the Illuminator was also sent to the pit for preaching a new Christian faith in pagan Armenia. He suffered for about 13 years but survived. After this long period of imprisonment, the miracle took place – the severely ill king was healed thanks to Gregory’s prayers. Thus the martyr was released, got the title of king’s adviser and became the founder of Christianity in Armenia.
On the site of the pit was built Khor Virap Monastery the location of which offers the most beautiful view of the sacred mountain Ararat. The pits are now open to the public – anyone who wishes can go down and imagine the suffering of Gregory.
Echmiadzin Cathedral is the main shrine of Armenia and all Armenians all over the world. It is considered one of the first Christian cathedrals in the world.
It is said that after the adoption of Christianity in 301 the only begotten son of God appeared to Gregory the Illuminator and pointed to the holy place for the temple construction. In that very place, the first Catholicos Gregory the Illuminator started the construction of Echmiadzin temple. The word “Echmiadzin” means “Descended the Only Begotten”.
At first, Echmiadzin was a simple wooden temple, and over time, the great Cathedral was rebuilt stone. Today, the treasury of the cathedral contains priceless relics including a fragment of Noah’s Ark, a part of the cross on which Christ was crucified, the remains of the first altar of the Echmiadzin temple, a part of the crown of thorns and much more. The cathedral holds the relics of John the Baptist, the apostles of Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Thomas, Andrew the First-Called, the relics of the Catholicism’, vestments, thrones, golden crosses, ancient coins and crowns.
Geghard monastery complex is another shrine of Armenia. For a long time a spear that pierced Christ was kept in the monastery. The name of the monastery means “Spear”. The tip of the spear is now stored in the treasury of Echmiadzin.
The impregnable monastic complex is partially carved into the rock. On one side it is protected by the rock, on the other side there is a deep gorge. The monastic complex includes the Astvatsatsin cave church, the chapel of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the main temple of Katoghike, and multiple cave cells carved out of granite rock. A clean spring flows under the temple. According to the locals, the spring has healing power.
Georgia adopted Christianity almost immediately after Armenia, in 324. The fate of the two Christian countries, surrounded by nations and enemies of a different religion, often intersected.
The history of the monastery is associated with the name of St. Nino Enlightener of Georgia. Thanks to Nino Georgia became a Christian country.
Holy Nino, together with her parents, visited Jerusalem, where she began to read the Holy Scriptures. One day while reading, Nino thought about the Chiton of the Lord. Her abbess said that the chiton is in Iberia (Georgian Kingdom). Nino began to pray to the Mother of God to help her enlighten Iberia. The Holy Mother of God appeared to her in a dream and handed her a unique cross and blessed to travel to Iberia. Nino arrived in Iberia in 319 and began to preach Christianity. Soon she gained the trust of the royal family and cured Queen Nana. The king Marian, healed of blindness by the prayers of Saint Nino, refused other gods and accepted Christianity as the only true religion. In 324, Christianity became the state religion of Georgia.
St. Nino spent the last years of her life in the small temple of Bodbe, where she was buried. Sometime later a monastery was built on the sight of her grave. In the temple, there is a spring of St. Nino with healing water. Also in the monastery is kept myrrh-streaming Iveron icon of the Mother of God.
Patriarchal Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli
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Svetitskhoveli Temple is one of the main spiritual centers of Georgia. The Patriarchal Cathedral is located in the town of Mtskheta, where the most important religious sites are located.
The history of the monastery is associated with Nino Equal to the Apostles and King Mirian. In the IV century, the king ordered to build the first wooden church. Later, on the site of the church, there was built a stone basilica. Later, in XI a modern temple was built. According to legend, it is in the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral that the holy Chiton of Jesus Christ is kept. In the place where the chiton is buried, stands the Life-giving Pillar. The Christians still used to pray there to get a blessing.
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Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi is one of the two main religious centers of Georgia. The temple is named after the sacred mountain of Zion in Jerusalem. There are several Christian churches and monasteries in Georgia, named after the holy places of Jerusalem.
In the VI century, there was an ancient temple in the place of the modern cathedral, which was soon destroyed by Arab troops. David IV the Builder restored the cathedral after the liberation of Tbilisi.
The main shrine of the temple is the cross of St. Nino, which she received as a gift from the Virgin Mary and brought from Jerusalem. The cross is made of grapevine and it is weaved with St. Nino’s hair. There is an inscription on the stone frame of the cross “Honest cross, have mercy on us.”
From two ancient Christian countries, we are moving to the neighboring country of Azerbaijan, where the state religion is Islam. Like other Islamic nations, Azerbaijanis are extremely religious and respect all traditions according to Islam. The places of pilgrimage are mainly mosques and mausoleums, however, today we will go to more interesting and ancient places.
The first of the sacred places in Azerbaijan is Mount Beshbarmag located in Siyazan. The name of the rock is translated as “five fingers”. On one side, the rock looks like a human’s wrist, on the other side, it looks like a face directed to the sky. There were legends about the rock and its magical power. One of them tells about Alexander the Great, who decided to conquer the whole world. With the great commander on the march, there was a man named Hızır who was looking for the water of immortality. Climbing up the mountain, Hızır decided to have dinner at the spring. He took out two dried fish; one of them fell into a spring and came to life. Thus, Hızır found what he was looking for.
A smooth path polished with the feet of pilgrims, leads to the top of the cliff. Having reached the top, the pilgrims thank for their strength and pray for the welfare.
Ashab E-Kahf, Nakhchivan
Not far from the city of Nakhchivan there is the sanctuary of Ashab E-Kahf. It is mentioned in the holy Quran, in the 18th Surah “Kahf”. It says that God saved the seven righteous from death and hid them in a cave. The young men spent the night in a cave. It seemed that only one night had passed, and in fact, they spent in the cave 309 years. A dog guarded them the whole time.
Now in the cave you can see seven figures right in the stone. During recent excavations, dog remains have been discovered. The cave has become a popular pilgrimage site. People come here from all over the world to see a miracle and pray. There is also a black stone in the cave. The visitors make a wish and attach a small stone on the big one. If the stone remains in its place, the wish will come true.
Sanctuary Mir Movsum Aga, Shuvelyan
The sanctuary Mir Movsum Aga is located in the village of Shuvelyan, Baku and is considered the youngest sanctuary in Azerbaijan. Mir Movsum was born in Icheri Sheher with a difficult fate. However, during childhood, he was struck by paralysis and he had a choice, either to get angry at the whole world, or to take the pain of others upon himself. As a true believer with a pure soul, he chose the second option and began to help everyone who needed him. He healed with a touch of his hand and prayers. After his death, he was buried in his native village, and his grave became a place of pilgrimage. People come from all over the country to pray and ask for help. In the place of the grave, a chic mausoleum Mir Movsum Aga was built.
So here were the best religious sites & tours around the South Caucasus region.
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