Christianity and David Gareja monastery complex. (Part 2)

From Tbilisi cave David and his disciple Lucian went to Gareji desert. When they drained the supply of food at new place, Lucian panicked, but the Reverend David prayed to the Lord and miracle happened: doe with full breasts of milk came. David turned milk into cheese and fed Lucian. Since then the doe began to visit them constantly. Once the doe complained of a snake that ate their children. The Reverend told the snake to leave. Snakes obeyed, but as soon as the Reverend turned away Heavenly fire came down and killed the snake so that the snake never could do troubles to animals or people. You can see a picture of these stories on frescoes of 11th century, located in a monastery Udabno near David’s Lavra in Kakheti. Also this story is seen on the wall paintings of 19th century in the Church of St John in Shio-Mgvime Monastery, which is 10 km. from Mtskheta.

All of the Syrian fathers founded monasteries on Georgian land, but the largest and most spectacular is monastery complex, founded by Reverend David in Gareja desert. Today the complex includes 20 monasteries of VI-XII centuries, which spread for 60 km. These monasteries are: Dodos Rka — VI, Natlismtsemeli — VI, Udabno — IX, Bertubani — VI, Berta Mta — VI, Tsamebuli — VI, Mravaltskaro — VI, Tetri Udabno — VI, Chichhituri — VI, Sabereebi — IX, four complexes of Berebis Suri — IX, Tsintskaro — VI, Kolagiri — XII, two complexes of Pirukugma — IX., Didi Kvabebi — IX, Patara Kvabebi — IX, Satorge — X, Kotsahura — IX, Verangaredzhi — IX, and, finally, chief of the monasteries is Lavra of St. David — VI century.

 

 

Great relic was kept in the monastery- a stone that symbolizes a third of the spiritual power of Jerusalem, which was brought by David from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When David finally reached Jerusalem, he suddenly felt such a thrill that he didn’t dare to enter the city. He only took 3 stone and went back. That same night the king had a dream, which showed that someone took all the spiritual power of Jerusalem. The soldiers run down David and took 2 stones. But the third he brought to Georgia. And now this stone is kept in Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral. It is brought to David-Gareja only at the ceremony.

 

The history of the monastery had ups and downs, ruins and rebirths.

In VI-VIII Gareji became a very important center of Georgian Christian spirituality. From the sixth century tomb of St. David’s became a place of pilgrimage for Christians. The next active phase begins in the IX century and it is connected with the activities of St. Hilarion the Georgian.

 

The rulers of Georgia had always protected the monastery, but the trouble came to Georgia with the invasion of enemies and the development of the monastery was stopped. In appreciation for patronage images of the Georgian rulers were painted on the walls of the monastery. In the paintings of the monasteries Natlismtsemeli and Udabno there are images of Bagrat IV (1027-1072 ), David IV (1089-1125), Dmitri I (1125-1156), Giorgi III (1156-1184), Queen Tamar (1184-1210), David Soslan , boy of  Lasha-Giorgi (1210-1223), Demetrius II the Self-sacrificer (1271-1289), as well as many other representatives of the royal court, the supreme ecclesiastical authority and nobility. Monastic life in Gareji reaches the peak of its development at the turn of the XII-XIII centuries. The Mongol invasion in the 13th century ruined monastery and the surrounding area. In the late 14th century the invasion of Tamerlane brought death and destruction again. In spite of all troubles the monastery rose from the ashes like a phoenix.

 

History had preserved the legend about the brutality of the Shah of Persia, who captured the monastery in the early XVII century. In 1615 Shah Abbas I passed by the monastery with his army at night. When he saw a lot of lights in the mountains, he was surprised. The Shah was explained that those were the monks performing their rite. The hater of Christianity sent soldiers to kill all the monks. The last will of the righteous men was to finish the service and to receive the Last Sacrament. The soldiers agreed to wait, but after the service killed them all. Two young monks couldn’t overcome their fear and ran away, but they saw a sign in the sky in the form of two lighted wreaths, so they returned and they were killed too. At this place a rose bush grew, and despite a rocky and arid soil it had been blooming for several centuries. The relics of the monks (600 monks were killed that night) on the territory of the monastery are considered to be holy and myrrh- streaming. On the territory of the complex there is also a holy spring «Tears of David», which is considered to be healing. Only the monks drink water from this source because there is little water left in it.

Happy Easter, my friends! Say this easy prayer on Easter Sunday:

 

“Lord, come to my house and take away all diseases and troubles. Protect my family. Amen”

 

And may the world around us becomes lighter and kinder!

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