17 August 2017
Data preserved in historical sources prove that Manglisi was one of the oldest hotspots of Christianity in Georgia. After declaring Christianity a state religion, in the 30s of the IV century, one of the first temples was built in Manglisi. According to Leonti Mroveli, in the first half of the IV century Manglisi is a city and was considered one of the most important cities of Kartli with Tbilisi, Ujarma, Bolnisi and Rustavi. Because of these circumstances, when Georgian king Mirian became a Christian and და Emperor Constantine (the Caesar) gave sacred relics and lots of treasure to his messenger bishop Ioane, he left part of the relics and treasure at Erusheti and Tsunda on his way to Mtskheta in order for the churches to be built, than “left that place and went to Manglisi and started building a church”; X century historian Arsen Catholicos in his work “The life of Saint Nino” tells us that one the first stone churches was built in Manglisi where Christianity’s most sacred treasure, parts of the True Cross was preserved. This information is testified by the fact that between 12 episcopacies founded by Vakhtang I Gorgasali in the V century Manglisi was named number 4. Many historical sources agree that Manglisi was one of the first episcopal pulpits in Georgia. Manglisi Temple was so famous in the VI century that people used to come from other countries to pray there.
Historical sources tell us nothing about Manglisi until the first quarter of the XI century, or the reign of George I of Georgia (1014-1027). This was the time when the architecture of the temple was thoroughly changed. On the east side of the original V century building the apse of the altar was moved forwards, storages for the altar were added on the sides. Southern and western gates were built, new dome was constructed, a new stone layer was added to the whole building and the exterior was carved according to that era’s standards, interior was covered with drawings. Final changes in Manglisi Sioni (which didn’t reach to us) were carried out in the middle of the XIX century, during Russian rule, on Exarch Isidore’s initiative and by the attempts of local Russian regiment’s officers. The temple which was damaged first by the attacks of Lezgins and then by the invasion of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, was cleaned and repaired. Liturgy was in practice again but many important details of the temple was lost forever.