One of the old architectural monuments of Tbilisi is Metekhi Virgin Mary’s Cathedral, built on a rocky place on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. The temple is a centre-domed structure. The composition of the temple is refined. Eastern and Northern walls with the decorations are only left of the XIII century building. The arches of Eastern and Southern walls, the dome neck, the patronike are restored in XVI-XVII c.c. and southern wall – in XVIII. The Cathedral, besides the main function, has a symbolic aspect – it is like the temple built on the grave of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem Gethsemane Garden. During the centuries the building was profoundly repaired and restored several times. That is why it consists of different layers and seems to have the traces of the reconstructions. The temple is made of bricks and is clad with the polished greenish gray stones. The main shrines of the Cathedral are: the grave of St. Shushanik (at the beginning of the VII century, after the split between the Armenian and Georgian churches, the Catholicos Kirion relocated the remains of St. Shushaniki from Village Tsurtavi to Metekhi Cathedral) and Abo Tbileli Icon. The Queen’s remains rest in the deaconry of the church. It is known that Queen Tamar clothed the body of the Holy Queen with gilded robe and would give her special honor.
We do not have the accurate information about the construction of the cathedral. However, “Kartlis Tskhovreba” (“Kartli Life”) ascribes it to Vakhtang Gorgasali (II half of V c.) and its reconstruction – to King Demetre II “Tavdadebuli” (“The Devoted”) of Georgia.
Metekhi Cathedral was the place where a famous Georgian diplomat and State officer Nikeporos Cholokashvili – Irbach served. During his stay in Rome he published the first Georgian printed book Georgian-Italian dictionary. After returning to Georgia in 1629 he became the Head of Metekhi Cathedral.
Nikephoros Irbak participated in the dialogue between Roman Pope Urban VIII and Teimuraz I on connecting the Georgian Church with Rome. The French Missionary Jean Chardon had the Metekhi Cathedral on a graphic image of Tbilisi. The Cathedral had a stone wall around in the XVII c. Regretfully, Metekhi Cathedral was used as a gun powder-warehouse by Vakhtang V Shahnavaz. Between 40s and 50s of the 18th century, after restoring the rule of Christian blessing of the Kartli-Kakheti kings, Erekle II started setting the relations with Iran and fighting for the liberation of the country. He rebuilt and restored the walls of Metekhi that is proved by the inscription on the wall of the Cathedral. As the result of Agha Mohammad Khan invasion of 1795, Tbilisi was burnt once again. The Metekhi Cathedral was destroyed, and its Miracle Icon was also lost.
After the establishment of Russian rule in 19th century and the abolition of Autocepalia, Metekhi was transformed into a military camp and barracks. A big prison was built. The Cathedral became an inner church of the prison. It functioned this way till the 30s of XX c. After establishment of the Communist regime the question of exploding the temple was also raised. Georgian artist Dimitri Shevardnadze resisted the government at that time. He was arrested and later shot. The Metekhi Cathedral escaped the demolition, though later a theatre was opened in it.
Sadly enough, the cathedral no longer bears the trace of painting after so many cataclysms. Today it is a functioning Orthodox Cathedral.