Observed annually on the 14th of October, Svetitskhovloba is a holiday that’s observed in the country of Georgia. This holiday not only celebrates the ancient city of Mtskheta — a town located northwest of Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi — but also the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral located in that city. This Orthodox Christian cathedral was completed during the 11th century and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s also the second-largest church building in Georgia and is the supposed burial site of the claimed Christ’s mantle. This holiday is observed with much enthusiasm not only by Orthodox Christians but also by other people who come for the dancing, music, and traditional food and crafts that are enjoyed on this day.

The History of Svetitskhovloba in Georgia

During the reign of Mirian III of Kartli, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral was built during the 4th century. According to a Georgian biographer, a Georgian Jew from Mtskheta was in Jerusalem when Jesus Christ was crucified. This man was named Elias, and he allegedly bought Jesus’ robe from a Roman soldier at Golgotha and brought it back to Georgia.

Upon his arrival in his home city, he supposedly met up with his sister Sidonia, who died immediately when she touched the sacred object. Since the robe could not be removed from her hands, it was buried with her. A cedar tree is said to have grown on the spot where she was buried, and St. Nino made seven columns from it to serve as the foundation of the church.

According to this story, the 7th column rose by itself into the air and stayed there until St. Nino prayed all night. A sacred liquid is then supposed to have flowed from the column that cured people of diseases. In Georgian, ‘sveti’ means pillar and ‘tskhoveli’ means life, and that’s why the cathedral is named Svetitskhovloba.

Observing Svetitskhovloba in Georgia

On this day, there is traditional dancing and music in front of the cathedral at Mtskheta, as well as religious services within it. It’s a day for traditional food to be enjoyed as well, and people from all across Georgia come for the festivities.

Where is it celebrated?
Georgia (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
October 14 Monday
Next year (2025)
October 14 Tuesday
Last year (2023)
October 14 Saturday