Georgia: Religion in Society
Georgia is considered to be one of the most ancient Christian countries in the world. Religion of Orthodoxy played a leading role in the formation of this state. At the same time, representatives of other faiths also live on its territory. Denominations peacefully coexist, showing respect and tolerance in relations with each other - features that are inherent in the Georgian people.
Pre-Christian Georgia: a pagan religion
Until the IV century AD - the time when Christianity was officially established in the Georgian lands - pagan traditions were strong here.
The patriarchal family structure extended in the highland part of the country contributed to the presence of a strong ancestral cult. On this basis, polytheistic beliefs, a large pantheon of gods, developed. Each of them had its own name, image (as a rule, human) and dominated in a certain area of life.
In addition, the Georgians deified plants and animals, worshiped mountains, valleys and stones. The worship of idols, statues made from various materials, was also ubiquitous.
The main idols in pagan Georgia were the Moon and the Sun.The traditional deification of the latter helped to spread Mithraism in these lands. At the dawn of the formation of the Christian religion in Georgia, Mazdaanism (fire worship) had a great influence on its territory. This religion was actively spread from the territory of modern Iran.
The legends and myths of pagan Georgia in many respects have reached our days in folk tales. Many of them survived the adoption of Christianity and subsequently merged with it.
Formation of Orthodoxy in Georgia
Giving an answer to the question of what is the official religion in Georgia, we can safely call the date - 326 AD, when Orthodox Christianity was approved in this country at the state level.
The merit in this belongs to Holy Equal to the Apostles Nina (Nino). According to the legend, she arrived in Georgia from Jerusalem, fulfilling the will of the Most Holy Theotokos. In addition to sermons, St. Nina initiated the construction of many Christian churches in the name of St. George in the state. The Most Holy Theotokos and St. George the Victorious are considered the heavenly patrons of the country.
It is not easy to find an example of perseverance and self-sacrifice similar to that which, defending the Orthodox faith, Georgia has repeatedly shown in its history.The religion of Christianity in the country survived in opposition to those cults that appeared on these lands along with numerous conquerors. In 1226, one hundred thousand residents of Tbilisi preferred to be martyred when they refused to desecrate the icons on the orders of the Shah of Khorezm Jalaletdin, who seized and ravaged the city. Many Georgian rulers who died defending the Orthodox faith were elevated to the face of the saints.
The role of the Orthodox religion in cultural life
Throughout almost the entire historical path that Georgia has taken, the religion of Christianity significantly influenced the cultural and spiritual development of this country.
The Georgian Apostolic Church became the focus of Orthodoxy on its lands. In the 5th century, it gained independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the 9th century - autocephaly. It was built many churches and monasteries, which became centers of enlightenment.
The clergymen composed and rewrote the chronicles, became the authors of the biographies of martyrs and saints. In the opinion of many researchers, the grgvlovani, a specific type of Georgian writing, became widespread on this land thanks to Orthodoxy.
Many famous Christian temples - Svetitskhoveli, Alaverdi - are recognized as outstanding architectural masterpieces.
Historical monuments of Christianity
On the Georgian lands there are many Orthodox shrines to which Christians from all over the world make pilgrimages.
One of the oldest monasteries in the territory of this country is Jvari (“Cross”). It is located in Mtskheta (the ancient capital of Georgia). Jvari was built in the 6th century, when Orthodoxy in Georgia was just beginning to spread. This place inspired Mikhail Lermontov when he wrote the poem "Mtsyri".
The temple of Bagrath nearby Kutaisi, built in the X-XI centuries by the ancestor of the famous princely Bagrationi dynasty, is included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage sites. Unfortunately, today only the ruins of the majestic complex are preserved.
Zion Cathedral in Tbilisi, dating back to the 7th century, is also widely known. It contains two great Georgian relics: the cross of St. Nino and the head of the Apostle Thomas.
Vardzia Monastery - a temple complex, carved into the rocks - was built on the orders of Queen Tamar in the XII century. It is considered to be the pride of Georgian architecture.The complex stretches for 900 m along the banks of the Kura River, rising up to 8 floors. In total there are more than 600 rooms, many of which are decorated with unique frescoes. The monastery served as a refuge for civilians in the attacks of enemies and was able to shelter twenty thousand people.
Focusing on which religion is the most common in Georgia, other religions should be mentioned in its territory.
The Gregorian Church has a significant influence in Georgia. It has about five hundred thousand parishioners belonging to the Armenian diaspora.
The second largest denomination are Muslims. There are more than four thousand of them living in Georgia, mainly in Adjara and Lower Kartli.
The Catholic community is not numerous here - about a hundred thousand people. Most of them live in the south of the country.
There is also an old, but quite small Jewish confession in Georgia. According to legends, the first Jews came to these lands after Jerusalem fell in the 6th century BC.
Modern Georgia is considered a multi-confessional state. The constitution formalizes the provision on free religion, although it emphasizes the prominent role of Orthodoxy in the life of the country.