Secondo Pia's 1898 negative of the image on the Shroud of Turin has an
appearance suggesting a positive image. It is used as part of the devotion
to the Holy Face of Jesus. Image from Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne.

A page from a rare Georgian bible, dating from AD 1030,
depicting the Raising of Lazarus

Full length negatives of the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin: modern photo of the face,
positive left, digitally processed image right

  History of the Christianity in Georgia is inseparable from history of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church. The rise of Christianity had a profound effect on the Georgian principalities. According to Georgian traditions, representatives of the Jewish community of Mtskheta were present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and that among the holy relics they brought back was Christ’s chiton (robe) that was buried near Mtskheta. The Christian tradition also describes the allotment of “Iberian” lands to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is considered the main protector and intercessor of Georgia. Tradition holds that Christianity was first introduced by Apostles Andrew, the First Called, and Simon, the Canaanite, who preached in western Georgia and are credited with the establishment of the first Georgian Eparchy in Atskuri (in southwestern Georgia), which is usually considered as the foundation for the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church. Another apostle, Mathias, preached in southwest of Georgia and is believed to be buried in Gonio, near Batumi. Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus also are said to have preached in Georgia.

Historical and archeological studies reveal that Christianity spread in Georgia in the second to third centuries before it was declared an official state religion. The new religion faced a major challenge from the Sasanid Empire and its Zoroastrian religion that had a firm hold in Georgia and delayed the adoption of Christianity for decades. In the early fourth century, Equal-to-the-Apostles Saint Nino of Cappadocia preached the Christian message in Iberia (eastern Georgia) and succeeded in persuading King Mirian II and his consort Queen Nana to proclaim it the state religion in eastern Georgia around 327 (or 337, depending on a study). Western Georgia seems to have had an organized Christian Church before the eastern regions since Bishops Stratophile of Bichvinta (Pythiunda) and Domnis (Domne) of Trebizond attended the first Ecumenical Council held in Nicea in 325. By 381, Bishop Pantophilus of Kartli attended the second Ecumenical Council.

After the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) established five autocephalous sees in Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, the Church of Kartli was placed under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic See of Antioch while the Church of Egrisi was subordinated to Constantinople. The Church of Kartli constituted a part of the Antiochean patriarchy but became autocephalous (independent) in 466 when the Patriarchate of Antioch elevated the Bishop of Mtskheta to the rank of Catholicos of Kartli; the first Catholicos was Peter, who led the church between 467 and 474. In 1010, the Catholicos of Kartli was elevated to the rank of patriarch and, in 1057, the Church of Antioch re-endorsed the Georgian church’s autocephaly.

Another important development took place in the sixth century when, following the Council of Dvin, Georgian church leaders rejected Monophysitism—the christological position that Christ has only one nature—(neighboring Armenia accepted it in 506) and supported the Chalcedonian creed—which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human— drawing Georgia closer to the Byzantine Empire, and later to Europe, and further from the Sasanid Persia that was more tolerant of the Monophysites. This period is noteworthy for the activities of famous Georgian theologians Evagrius Ponticus (Evagre Pontoeli, fourth century) and Peter the Iberian (Petre Iberi, fifth century).

By the sixth century, the Church of Kartli had 35 bishops and was gradually gaining its own rights and international recognition. In the ninth century, the church received the right to consecrate the myron (chrism, used in the administration of certain sacraments and in the performance of certain ecclesiastical functions), which was formerly delivered from Jerusalem. In the west, the Church of Egrisi (Lazica) was led by a metropolitan, who established his see in ancient Phasis (Poti) and was subordinated to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The close relations between the Church of Egrisi and Constantinople facilitated the spread of the Hellenistic Christian tradition in the region. In the late ninth century, the Church of Egrisi broke away from Constantinople and placed itself under the catholicos of the Church of Kartli, effectively establishing a united Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC).

Between the sixth and ninth centuries, Georgia underwent a cultural transformation as Christian monasticism flourished, leaving a long-lasting influence and stimulating a vigorous development of arts and letters. Although pre-Christian Georgian literature seems to have been destroyed in the process, new original works were created and many important religious treatises translated from Greek into Georgian. The earliest surviving examples of Georgian hagiographic literature are the Life of Saint Nino and Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik from the fifth century. The widespread construction of churches promoted rapid improvement in architecture, and gradually a unique cruciform style of church artchitecture developed, evident in the basilica-type churches of Bolnisi and Urbnisi (fifth century) and the cruciform domed Jvari Church (late sixth century). Important centers of Georgian Christian culture were established at the Georgian monasteries at Mount Sinai and the Monastery of the Black Mountain near Antioch in Syria, the monasteries of St. Sabas, the Holy Cross and St. Chariton in Palestine, the Iviron Monastery complex on Mount Athos in Greece, the Petritsoni Monastery in Bulgaria, and others. Important philosophical-theological schools existed at the Academies of Gelati and Ikalto.

The Georgian Christians had close contacts with the Holy Land and were involved in translating and interpreting Christian works; many lost original Arabic Christian texts are preserved through Georgian translations. Georgian scholars produced and translated polemical works on Christianity and Islam and original treatises on medicine, astronomy, and other fields. In the 10th century, the contacts between the Arab (Syrian) and Georgian Christian literatures faded and were replaced by Byzantine influence. The 11th–12th centuries saw the Georgian church actively participating in and adapting the Byzantine regulations and canons. The exchange of ideas was mutual, since Constantinople had a large community of Georgian scholars and theologians, who, in turn, influenced the Byzantine theology and philosophy. Constantinople and Mount Athos became the centers of Georgian Christian culture outside Georgia and produced outstanding manuscripts, many of which are still preserved at the Iviron Monastery. Frescoes, mosaic arts, icon painting, repoussé covers for holy books, and cloisonné were perfected; the Icon of the Kakhuli Virgin (10th century) remains one of the largest and most immaculate enamel works in the world. This period produced such talented scholars and theologians as Euthymios the Athonite (Ekvtime Atoneli. 955–1028), Giorgi the Athonite (Giorgi Atoneli. 1009–1065), Epraim the Lesser (Ephrem Mtsire. 11th century), Arsen Ikaltoeli (11th century), and Ioane Petritsi. Of particular importance was the activity of Grigol Khandzteli, who organized a vibrant monastic life in the Tao-Klarjeti region of southwestern Georgia.

The 10th–11th centuries saw the GOC come into possession of vast land holdings, turning it into “a state within a state” and clashing with the royal authority. In 1103, King David IV Aghmashenebeli convened the Ruis-Urbnisi Church Council that reformed the Georgian Orthodox Church. The council limited the church’s authority, expelled rebellious clergy, and expanded the royal administration into the clerical sphere. The office of the powerful Archbishop of Chqondidi was merged with that of Mtsignobartukhutsesi, chief adviser to the king on all state issues, and the new office of Chqondideli-Mtsignobartukhutsesi introduced direct royal authority into the church. Following the Golden Age in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, Georgia was devastated by the Mongol invasions and the onslaught of Tamerlane (Timur). The GOC played a particularly important role during this period when it provided a rallying point for the population, providing spiritual comfort and preserving the Georgian culture. However, political developments also affected the church. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, as the united Kingdom of Georgia was split into eastern and western parts, the Orthodox Church was ruled by two catholicos-patriarchs, and an independent catholicate emerged in west Georgia in the late 14th century.

The Georgian church was quite tolerant of the Roman Catholic church and in the 13th century, Franciscan missionaries were allowed to establish a monastery, led by Jacob of Rogsane, in Tbilisi. Later that century, the Dominicans operated another monastery in Georgia. In 1329, Pope John XXII established a Catholic bishopric in Tbilisi, which survived until the 16th century. The Georgian cleric Nikoloz Cholokashvili-Irbaki (1585–1659) served as an ambassador in Europe from 1626–1629, tried to establish links between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, and established the first Georgian printing press in Rome, where the first Georgian book, a Georgian-Italian dictionary for Catholic missionaries, was printed. In the early 18th century, prominent ecclesiastic figure Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani also traveled to Europe (1713–1716) to bring Georgia into contact with the Western powers and even converted to Catholicism in a bid to secure European support against Persia. Theatine missionaries operated in Georgia from 1628–1700 while Capuchin Franciscans existed until 1845 when the Russian authorities put an end to their activities.

After the Georgian kingdoms were occupied and annexed by the Russian Empire in the early 1800s, the autocephalous status of the Georgian Orthodox Church was abolished by the Russian authorities in 1811. For the next hundred years, the Georgian church was subordinated to the synodical rule of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Georgian liturgy was suppressed and replaced with the Russian liturgy. In the 1850s, most of the GOC’s property and lands were requisitioned by the Russian government.

The February Revolution in 1917 provided the possibility of reviving the GOC, and its autocephaly was restored on 12 March 1917, although the Holy Synod of the Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church refused to officially recognize it. The restoration of the GOC proved short-lived, since four years later the Red Army invaded and occupied the newly independent Georgian republic. Throughout this period, hundreds, if not thousands, of churches and monasteries were damaged or destroyed throughout Georgia, particularly in revolutionary Guria. Inspired by new ideology, the Bolshevik authorities persecuted the Georgian church and had thousands of priests and monks arrested. During World War II, persecution of the clergy was relatively limited as Joseph Stalin sought to use the church to rally the Soviet citizens against the Nazi threat. The autocephaly of the Georgian church was recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1943, but it remained under constant pressure and supervision of the Soviet authorities. Nevertheless, between 1921 and 1978, the Georgian clergy held 12 ecclesiastical councils. The GOC enjoyed a period of revival, and the Holy Synod of Constantinople recognized its autocephaly in January 1990.

At present, the Georgian church consists of 15 bishoprics supervised by the Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, who resides in Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi. The church supervises 35 eparchies and several hundred active churches and monasteries.


Today 84% of the population in Georgia practices Orthodox Christianity, primarily the Georgian Orthodox Church. Of these, around 2% follow the Russian Orthodox Church, around 5.9% (almost all of whom are ethnic Armenians) follow the Armenian Apostolic Church and 0.8% are Catholics and are mainly found in the south of Georgia but with a small number in its capital, Tbilisi.

A Pew Center study about religion and education around the world in 2016, found that between the various Christian communities, Georgia ranks as the third highest nation in terms of Christians who obtain a university degree in institutions of higher education (57%).


According to Orthodox tradition, Christianity was first preached in Georgia by the Apostles Simon and Andrew in the 1st century. It became the state religion of Kartli (Iberia) in 319. The conversion of Kartli to Christianity is credited to a Greek lady called St. Nino of Cappadocia. The Georgian Orthodox Church, originally part of the Church of Antioch, gained its autocephaly and developed its doctrinal specificity progressively between the 5th and 10th centuries. The Bible was also translated into Georgian in the 5th century, as the Georgian alphabet was developed for that purpose. As was true elsewhere, the Christian church in Georgia was crucial to the development of a written language, and most of the earliest written works were religious texts. The Georgians' new faith, which replaced pagan beliefs and Zoroastrianism, was to place them permanently on the front line of conflict between the Islamic and Christian worlds. Georgians remained mostly Christian despite repeated invasions by Muslim powers, and long episodes of foreign domination. After Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire, the Russian Orthodox Church took over the Georgian church in 1811.

The Georgian church regained its autocephaly only when Russian rule ended in 1917. The Soviet regime that ruled Georgia from 1921 did not consider revitalization of the Georgian church an important goal, however. Soviet rule brought severe purges of the Georgian church hierarchy and frequent repression of Orthodox worship. As elsewhere in the Soviet Union, many churches were destroyed or converted into secular buildings. This history of repression encouraged the incorporation of religious identity into the strong nationalist movement and the quest of Georgians for religious expression outside the official, government-controlled church. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, opposition leaders, especially Zviad Gamsakhurdia, criticized corruption in the church hierarchy. After Ilia II became the patriarch (catholicos) of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the late 1970s, Georgian Orthodoxy experienced a revival. In 1988 Moscow permitted the patriarch to begin consecrating and reopening closed churches, and a large-scale restoration process began. The Georgian Orthodox Church has regained much power and full independence from the state since the restoration of Georgia's independence in 1991.

Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church

The Georgian Orthodox Church (full title Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church, or in the Georgian language, საქართველოს სამოციქულო მართლმადიდებელი ავტოკეფალური ეკლესია Sakartvelos Samocikulo Martlmadidebeli Avt'ok'epaluri Ek'lesia) is one of the world's most ancient Christian Churches, and tradition traces its origins to the mission of Apostle Andrew in the 1st century. It is an autocephalous (self-headed) part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Georgian Orthodoxy has been a state religion in parts of Georgia since the 4th century, and is the majority religion in that country.

The Constitution of Georgia recognizes the special role of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the country's history but also stipulates the independence of the church from the state. The relations between the State and the Church are regulated by the Constitutional Agreement of 2002.


Georgian film history began in late 19th century and the first cinema opened in Tbilisi in 1896; by the 1900s, there were several film theaters throughout Georgia. In 1912, Vasili Amashukeli and Alexander Digmelov directed the first documentary film Akaki Tsereteli Racha-Lechkhumshi, which effectively marked the begining of the Georgian film industry. In 1916, Alexander Tsitsunava made first feature film Kristine. After World War I, Tbilisi was second only to St. Petersburg in a number of cinema theaters and film productions in the Russian empire.

The Georgian film industry prospered in the 1920s, when a special unit was established at the Commissariat of People’s Education in 1923 and later developed into Goskinprom (state cinematic production). This period produced several talented directors. Siko Dolidze’s Dariko, David Rondeli’s Dakarguli Samotkhe, Kote (Konstantine) Mikaberidze’s Chemi bebia, Nikoloz Shengelaia’s Eliso and Narinjis Veli, Ivane Perestiani’s Arsena Jorjiashvili and Krasnie diavoliata, Amo Baknazarov’s Poterianoe sokrovishe, and Mikhail Kalatozov (Kalatozishvili) Marili Svanets set standards in the industry and greatly influenced subsequent generations of Georgian artists. In the same period, Alexander Tsutsunava and Kote Marjanishvili, both coming from a theatrical background, introduced the best traditions of dramatic art into the Georgian cinema. Tsutsunava’s most memorable films were Vin Aris Damnashave? and Djanki Guriashi while Mardjanishvili’s Samanishvilis dedinatsvali remains one of the finest Georgian comedies. In 1929, Mikhail Chiaureli debuted with Saba and later produced his other feature film Khabarda.

As the Soviet authorities strengthened, the Georgian film industry found itself increasignly under pressure to conform with official guidelines. Socialist realism became the dominant theme and the creative force gradually weakened. This was especially evident between the 1930s and early 1950s, when the cinema effectively became a propaganda machine for the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. In 1938, the Tbilisi Cinematographic Studio was established in Tbilisi. Several Georgians rose to prominence in this period, notably Mikheil Chiaureli who emerged as one of the most important Soviet filmmakers in the 1940s and became Joseph Stalin’s favorite director; his movies contributed significantly to the creation of Stalin’s personality cult. Among his important works were Velikoe Zarevo (1938), Giorgi Saakadze (1942-1943), Kliatva (1946), Padenie Berlina (1950), Nezabivaemii god 1919 (1952), etc. The success of the Georgian cinema was also due to a generation of talented artists, including Nato Vachnadze, Veriko Anjaparidze, Alexander Zhorzholiani, Sergo Zakariadze, Tamar Tsitsishvili, Ushangi Chkheidze, etc. Mikhail Gelovani became famous for his portrayal of Joseph Stalin in Vyborgskaia storona and Lenin v 1918 (1939), Oborona Tsaritsyna (1942), Kliatva (1946) and Padenie Berlina (1950).  

In the 1950s-1960s, the Georgian cinema saw the establishment of the Gruzia Film studio and the rise of a young generation of talented directors and screenwriters. Tengiz Abuladze and Rezo Chkheidze collaborated on the 1954 feature film Magdanas Lurja, which earned them the prestigious Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and first prize at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1956. Abuladze’s other film Someone Else’s Children (1956) won awards at the international film festivals in Tashkent, Helsinki, London and Tehran. In 1958, Mikhail Kalatozov (Kalatozishvili) achieved great success with his Letiat zhuravli that won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and he went on to direct the successful films Neotpravlennoe pizmo (1959) and Red Tent (1969).  

The period between the late 1960s and the 1980s was the golden age of the Georgian film industry, which produced up to 60 films a year. In 1972, the Faculty of Cinema was established at the Shota Rustaveli Institute of Theater and later developed into the Tbilisi Institute of Theater and Film. The studio employed such prominent directors as Giorgi Danelia, Eldar and Giorgi Shengelaia, Otar Ioseliani, Lana Gogoberidze, Mikhail Kobakhidze, Nana Jorjadze, Dito Tsintsadze, Sergey Paradzhanov, Goderdzi Chokheli and others. The period is noteworthy for a remarkable collaboration of the creative artists Rezo Gabriadze and Eldar Shengelaia, who produced such memorable films as Arachveulebrivi gamofena (1968), Sherekilebi (1973) and Tsiferi mtebi (1983). In 1962, Abuladze produced one of his most popular feature films, Grandma, Iliko, Illarion And Me, based on Nodar Dumbadze’s novel. One of the most acclaimed Georgian films of this period Otets soldata was directed by Rezo Chkheidze in 1964, with Sergo Zakariadze in the leading role. Chkheidze went on to direct a series of hits, including Gimilis bichebi (1969), Nergebi (1972), Mshobliuro chemo mitsav (1980), Tskhovreba Don Kikhotisa da Sancho Pansasi (1988). Abuladze’s Vedreba (1967) won a grand prix at the San Remo Film Festival while his other film Natvris Khe (1976) was also honored at film festivals in Riga, Tehran, Moscow, etc. Giorgi Shengelaia directed the popular movies Pirosmani (1969), Matsi Khvitia (1966), Alaverdoba, Rats ginakhavs, vegar nakhav (1965), Khareba da Gogia (1987), Sikvaruli Kvelas unda (1989) and the musical Veris ubnis melodiebi (1973). Ioseliani worked on Giorgobistve (1968), Iko shahsvi mgalobeli (1970) and Pastoral (1975) while Kobakhidze produced Kortsili (1964), Qolga (1966) and Musikosebi (1969). Lana Gogoberishvili achieved critical acclaim with Gelati (1958) and later directed Me vkhedav mzes (1965), Peristsvaleba (1968), Rotsa akvavda nushi (1972), Aurzauri salkhinteshi (1975), Ramodenime interviu pirad sakitkhze (1979) and Oromtriali (1986). This period is also noteworthy for a number of short films, including Kvevri, Serenada, Ghvinis Kurdebi, Peola and Rekordi, that remain popular to the present day. Goderdzi Chokheli directed Mekvle, Adgdgoma, Adamianta Sevda, Utskho, Agdgomis Batkani and Tsodvis shvilebi. In 1979, Temur Babluani made a debut with Motatseba and followed with Begurebis gadaprena (1980) and Kukaracha (1982).  

Some of the films produced in this period were censored and kept from public release. Otar Ioseliani’s works were suppressed on several occasions, while Abuladze’s famous Monanieba (1984) was released only three years later. This feature film of Abuladze became one of the most famous and controversial movies of this period as it portrayed the brutal reality of Stalin’s purges and had a long-lasting effect on raising political consciousness in the Soviet Union. Sergey Paradzhanov was another major director in the Georgian cinema, whose works earned him worldwide acclaim. His Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1965) became a breakthrough film and international success, garnering the British Film Academy Award in 1966. His next film, Sayat nova (The Colour of Pomegranates), revealed his mastery of film art and complexity of his vision that produced a series of unforgettable scenes. In 1980s, Paradzhanov directed two major films Legenda o Suramskoi kreposti (1985) and Ashik Kerib (1988) that further enhanced his stature as the preeminent Soviet director of his generation.The Georgian film industry fell in disarray in the early 1990s, when Georgia found itself in the midst of a civil war, ethno-territorial conflicts and economic crisis. Nevertheless, a number of popular films were produced, including Laka, Gamis Tsekva, Zgvarze, Isini, Ara, Megobaro, Otsnebata Sasaplao, Rcheuli, Ik Chemtan, Ak Tendeba and others. Babluani directed Udzinarta Mze in 1992 and won the Silver Bear prize at the Berlin Festival. Dito Tsintsadze debuted with Dakhatuli tsre in 1988 and later produced Sakhli (1991), Stumrebi (1991) and Zghvarze (1993). Many directors emigrated to Europe and Russia. Otar Ioseliani and Mikheil Kobakhidze continued their career in France while Nana Jorjadze and Dito Tsintsadze worked in Germany; Jorjadze enjoyed a very successful career, winning the Caméra d’Or at Cannes for her Robinzoniada, anu chemi ingliseli papa (1986) and receiving a nomination for the American Academy Award for her Les Mille et une recettes du cuisinier amoureux (The Chef in Love, 1997). In 2001, the National Center of Cinematography was established in order to revive the Georgian film industry. An international film festival had been organized annually in Tbilisi since 1999. Unfortunately, a massive fire in mid-January 2005 destroyed a large number of the Georgian movies after the storehouse of the Georgian Film Studio burned down in Tbilisi.

Alexander Mikaberidze

In Georgian mythology, Amirani is a hero, the son of the goddess Dali and a mortal hunter. According to the Svan version, the hunter’s wife learned about her husband’s affair with Dali and killed her by cutting her hair while she was asleep. At Dali’s death, the hunter extracted from her womb a boy whom he called Amirani. The child had marks of his semi-divine origins with symbols of the Sun and the Moon on his shoulder-blades and a golden tooth.

Georgian myths describe the rise of the titan Amirani, who fights devis (ogres), challenges the gods, kidnaps Kamar (the daughter of gods), and teaches metallurgy to humans. In punishment, the gods (in some versions, Jesus Christ) chain Amirani to a cliff (or an iron pole) in the Caucasus Mountains, where the titan continues to defy the gods and struggles to break the chains; an eagle ravages his liver every day, but it heals at night. Amirani’s loyal dog, meantime, licks the chain to thin it out, but every year, on Thursday or in some versions the day before Christmas, the gods send smiths to repair it. In some versions, every seven years the cave where Amirani is chained can be seen in the Caucasus.

Scholars agree that this folk epic about Amirani must have been formed in the third millennium BCE and later went through numerous transformation, the most important of them being morphing pagan and Christian elements after the spread of Christianity. The myth could have been assimilated by the Greek colonists or travelers and embodied in the corpus of the famous Greek myth of Prometheus. In the Georgian literature and culture, Amirani is often used as a symbol of the Georgian nation, its ordeals and struggle for survival.




There was and there was not (of God's best may it be!), there was an old hunter, named Sulkalmakhi. He lived in a forest with his wife Darejan and his two little sons, Badri and Usupi. His eldest son Tsamtsumi lived in a distant country.
One evening, on his way home, after a weary day of hunting, he came to a high cliff. As it was late, he spent the night in a cave near this cliff. At dawn he heard a scream that came from the top of the cliff. After much difficulty, he reached the top. And there, in a cave, he beheld Dali, the Goddess of the wood (hunt). She lay writhing on the ground. The Goddess on seeing him begged him to take a knife and cut open her womb and take from it the baby that
was there. She told him that a stranger had come to her while she was sleeping, and had cut off her long golden hair, and had remained with her that night-"If it be a boy, name him Amirani. Take him, and bring him up and love him as thine
own." The hunter did as she told him. He cut open her womb with his knife and took out the infant. It was a boy who" had a golden tooth in his mouth. The hunter took the infant home to his wife, who soon loved him even more than her
own sons, so that he was called "Darejani's son". Amirani grew as much in a day as other children grow in a year.


Soon the hunter and his wife died, leaving the children to look after themselves. As for Amirani

    Astounding was the quantity of wine he drank and food he ate.
    For dinner he a bull devoured; for supper more than three he ate.
    Now Badri was as gentle and as lovely as a virgin maid.
    A crystal tower did Usup seem, so strong and graceful was he made.
    But like a dark and lowering cloud was Amirani, ever grave.
    Once Amirani and his brothers went ahunting far from home.
    O'er many mountains did they wander, over plains where devils roam.
    They passed the Algetisni mountain, heeding neither heat nor cold,
    When sudden from its lofty summit sprang a deer with horns of gold.
    Upon this strange and distant mount they saw a crystal castle fair.
    They walked around the lofty tower, but could not find an entrance there,
    Then Amirani struck the wall on which the sun its light did pour;
    And there the castle oped its mouth, and lo! before them stood a door.
    A warrior dead upon the floor, and near his head a steed they spied;
    At his right side a giant sword sent flashing lustre far and wide.
    His shield reached heavens high, and tore the lining of the spacious sky;
    And in one corner of the room in heaps did gold and silver lie.
    With loosened hair his mother knelt, and for her child she loudly cried.
    His wife whose tears o'erflowed the seas sat weeping at her husband's side.

The dead man held a letter in his hand, which he had written before his death. Amirani, stooped down, took it and read aloud...

    "I beg of ye, to list to me. Usup's brother's son am I.
    All trembled at my strength and might; the foe from me in fear did fly
    Yet while the devi Baqbaqi is alive, no peace have I,
    So, whoe'er slays that monstrous giant to him my flashing shield give I;
    Whoever brings the tidings glad to him my peerless sword give I;
    Whoe'er my parents buries well to him my wealth and land give I;
    Whoever finds my sister's fate to him my hoard of gold give I;
    Whoever buries me to him my wife and faithful steed give I."

On hearing this the brothers were greatly troubled, for it was then that they learned of
the brother whom they had never seen or known of. Amirani was the first to speak. "Why do we
stand here doing nothing. Let us go and seek the devi Baqbaqi. But wait, let us take away the
lady, the steed and all this gold and silver before we go."

But the brothers said:

    "O Amirani of the sun, desire not that what is not thine.
    Else thy good name be spat upon for robbing a dead man's riches fine."

They buried the dead and locked the castle. Then they set out to find the devi. Soon they met the devi Baqbaqi who had heard of Tsamtsumi's death, and was coming to eat him.

    But Amirani rushed upon the devi with his sword on high.
    "No Christian wilt thou touch," he cried, "thou monster vile, I dare thee try!"
    Then Amirani and the giant to all the world their strength disclosed.
    Their cries like thunder echoed far as both in deadly struggle closed.
    The devi felt his strength give way and down he fell upon the plain.
    His arm was cleft, he howled aloud as on the ground he rolled in pain.
    "Darejani's son," he cried, "O kill me not, I beg of thee!
    And I shall tell thee of a maid who lives beyond a magic sea.
    So fair is she that ev'n the sun has never seen the like before.
    Her dress is made of wondrous silks and gold that sunbeams o'er it pour.
    But one must pass great seas and mounts to reach Qamari's native strand.
    I'll give to thee a cunning slave to help thee find that distant land."

Amirani wished to let the devi go free, but his brothers said: "Kill him, otherwise thouwilt regret it."

The devi had three heads. Amirani, listening to his brothers' words, cut off Baqbaqi's heads. But before he had cut off the third the devi said: "One thing I ask of thee before I die. Do not kill the three worms that will crawl out of my heads."
Amirani cut off the third head. From Baqbaqi's heads three worms crawled out. Usupi told Amirani to kill them at once, but Amirani laughed and said: "The devi could not do me any
harm, so can three tiny worms do anything to me?" Then he turned to the guide Baqbaqi had given them and told him to lead the way to Qamari, a maid such as the sun had never seen the like of.

    Thus they went over hill and vale, without a rest, without delay,
    Hoping to reach the destined place at close of every weary day.
    They followed e'er the wary guide, and thus went on an endless way.
    But soon the brothers understood the guide was leading them astray!
    Then Amirani shouted loud: "Thou wretch, I'll make thee howl in woe.
    Mislead us not or else I'll strike thee flat upon the ground below."
    The guide soon led them to a plain where they beheld in dread dismay
    Baqbaqi's worms to dragons three had grown and there before them lay!
    One worm was red, the other black, the third was white; and all the three
    Sang: "Amirani do we seek," as they came prancing o'er the lea.
    "Come, brothers mine, and let us kill the dragons!" Amirani cried.
    "Thou didst not kill the worms; so fight alone the dragons," they replied.
    Then Amirani clutched the sword that like the wrath of heaven flashed:
    "Help me in my distress, my sword!" and towards the dragons three he dashed.

A dreadful struggle took place. Amirani killed the white dragon. Then he killed the red one. The black dragon rushed forward belching fire and smoke. Amirani was so exhausted and weak that the monster swallowed him, and off it went to its mother, the sea. Usupi and Badri were greatly distressed. They resolved to kill the dragon. Usupi drew his bow and lo! the dragon's tail was severed off. The monster wished to wind itself about a tree and crush its prey. But it strove in vain and could only flap the stump of its tail on the ground. The dragon groaned: "O mother, help! my entrails burn and render me wild!"

    "None but the son of Darejan can ever harm thee, dearest child."
    "He who is in me has a tooth of gold." the dragon writhing sighed.
    "Woe to thy mother and to thee, for that is Darejani's child!"

In the meantime Amirani had taken out a sharp knife which he had in his boot. He cut through the dragon's belly, and came out. Once again the three brothers set out in search of Qamari. They went on and on beyond the sky, across the earth, through forests, across the plains, over the mountains, through storm and battle and through fire and blood. At last they came to a large castle where nine devis lived together with their wives and children. It was impossible to count the number of their sons and daughters and grandchildren.

    Then Amirani rushed within and killed the devis at one blow.
    Blood flowed and overflowed the house; the world gleamed in a crimson glow.
    The blood rose up and filled the tower, and Amirani felt the dread
    Of being drowned within the sea of blood that now had reached his head!
    But suddenly his eyes beheld a struggling devi floating nigh;
    He caught and threw it at the door, which opened wide, and with a cry
    The blood rolled up, and like a ball of thunder left the castle high.
    The brothers came into the tower and found a mount of devis dead.
    They cleared the house and washed the floor which devis' blood had stained with red.
    And thereafter the brothers three a life of peace and comfort led.


Thus Amirani and his brothers lived happily together for some time. But, as time passed, Amirani grew sad. The thought of Qamari, the maiden unseen even by the sun, was ever in his
mind. He grew restless. So one day he turned to Badri...

    "Give me thy steed Snow-white," he said, "'twill lead me safe o'er land and sea;
    We'll fly along the tempest's breast, and bring Qamari back with me."

Badri gave him his steed Snow-white. Amirani together with his brothers went forth to find Qamari. Soon they came to a great sea. Amirani, leaving Usupi and Badri on the shore plunged into the sea. Snow-white cut through the waves and Amirani in the twinkling of an eye found himself on the opposite shore, where Qamari lived.

    Qamari's parents lived amidst the suns and stars in heavens high;
    Above the world their castle fine hung swinging in the azure sky.
    Then Amirani spurred his horse, and like an arrow made it fly;
    And with his sword he cut the chain that tied the castle to the sky.
    The castle fell, and Amirani to the window rode and cried:
    "Qamari, come, and be my wife, in happiness with me abide."

Qamari was tidying up the house when she heard Amirani call. "Thou must wait," she replied, "I must wash these dishes before I go with thee." Amirani tied his horse and went in. The beautiful maiden asked him to help her.
He placed each dainty dish upon a shelf. But one little dish would not stand upright.

    He tried and tried and tried in vain, he tried with all his might and zeal;
    And then impatiently he threw it down and crushed it with his heel.
    Then piece with piece, and dish with dish, began to speak in deafening cry;
    And all the dishes upwards flew to Qamari's father in the sky.

Qamari told Amirani to make haste for — "If my father finds us here, to escape his anger will be late." So Amirani and Qamari rode away in great haste... The whirling winds in fury blew; the rain like torrents flowed from high. But Amirani wondered much to see the sun shine in the sky. "The wind," explained Qamari, "is the dust blown up by the rushing feet of my father's men. The rain is the tears shed by my mother who is weeping for me. But Amirani, quick, lest we be overtaken."

    "My Qamari," answered Amirani, "why this haste? Fear them not.
    No tiny forest bird am I caught by a falcon when on high;
    No rabbit caught by dogs am I; no little leaf wind-tossed am I.
    My brothers two and I will cut the heads of all the coming foe,
    And all thy father's men I'll lay stone dead before thee with one blow.
    So let them come! Let thousands come! I'll meet them with my dagger bright.
    However great their number be, however great their strength and might."

Amirani and Qamari soon reached the shore where Usupi and Badri were waiting. They looked back and saw the sea covered with ships sent by Qamari's father. The ships were full of devis and Kajis. Usupi mounted the steed Snow-white and plunged into the sea. He fell upon the Kajis and devis and killed half their number. But he was wounded and fell dead. Now Badri rushed at the enemy, and hewed and hacked them down. But he also fell wounded and died.

    Amirani shot an arrow, but before following it cried:
    "Far better than a shameful life is gloried death within a grave!"
    Now Amirani forward rushed and made the foe before him fall;
    But there was one whom none could kill, the strongest, mightiest of them all.

The lord of the devis and Kajis was Qamari's father, who was wroth to see all his army slain. He rushed in fury and anger at Amirani. Fire lighted up the sky as sword met sword. They
struggled a long time, but neither could strike the other. Qamari saw with a sinking heart that Amirani was about to fall. She knew that it was impossible to kill the lord of the devis and Kajis. She called to Amirani:

    "Thou fightest not as warriors should," and tears flowed from her anxious eye.
    "Strike lower down to bring him down! Thy sword thou wieldest up too high."
    "A house that's shattered at the base will fall, however large or high."

Her father on hearing her words cried:

    "Cursed be the hussy! Hear her words! How to her father she is blind.
    Like leaves do husbands thrive, but can she another father find?

Why did thy mother care for thee. It would have been better if she had brought forth a dog instead, for it would have been more faithful and true to her."

    "I never sucked my mother's breast, nor ever heard a lullaby;
    None cared if I lived on or died, alone, abandoned I would cry."
    When Amirani heard the words he swung his mighty sword around,
    And in one lightning stroke his foe, deprived of life, fell on the ground.

Amirani, victorious and happy hurried back to Qamari. But on the way he met a woman. She said to him: "Where goest thou? Why this haste? For thy beloved thou hast slain her father and his men. But who is grateful to thee for the deed? If thou wert a man thou wouldst unsheathe thy steel, and find thy brothers." Amirani suddenly remembered Usupi's words, "For thy lady love thy brothers are willing to die." Amirani forgot Qamari. His only thought and desire was to find Usupi and Badri. He said to himself, "If I find my brothers alive, I will rejoice and be happy with them, but if they are dead, I will dig a grave, and lay myself beside them."

On the fields covered with the bodies of the devis and Kajis vultures and beasts of prey were feasting and revelling. After a long search Amirani found the dead bodies of his brothers.

    "O brothers mine," he wailed aloud, "Hear how I mourn for you and cry.
    Have pity! be not wroth with me; to ye I come; with ye I die."
    He tried to plunge into his heart his dagger, but in vain the strife;
    He knew not that if he had cut his little finger with a knife,
    Then he would bleed to death and thus, with gladness, leave this woeful life.
    But Amirani knew this not, so down he sat and grieving said:
    "Unworthy am I ev'n of death." And on the ground his dagger laid.
    But one dead Kaji sudden sat, and to the other Kajis said:
    "O Kajis, listen to me now and know of what the world is made.
    You hear how Amirani weeps and grieves because he cannot die;
    If he cuts off his finger then the blood will flow and he will die."
    On saying this the Kaji lay down again. All was as still as before.

Amirani, who had heard the words of the dead Kaji, took his dagger and cut his little finger off. The blood flowed out and he lay down beside his brothers. "Qamari," he whispered weakly, "give up thy life for me, and die with me. Prefer me
dead to even the glory of a living lion."Amirani breathed his last. Qamari with loud wailings ran up to him. With loosened hair, she mourns her mate; her tears with seas and oceans blend. In pity leaves from trees drop down, and to her wailings rustlings lend. At that moment there jumped out a little mouse. It began to lick Amirani's blood but Qamari in rage took off her shoe and throwing it at the mouse killed it.

    At this the mother of the mouse came out and to Qamari said:
    "Thou wanton, for thy love and sake thy mate and all thy kin are dead.
    Thou canst do naught for all thy dead, while I can bring my child to life."
    When both the mice had disappeared within their holes beneath the ground,
    Qamari rose with beating heart, and soon that very herb she found.

Qamari applied it to Amirani, and he was restored to life. When he saw Qamari he said: "What a long time I have slept!" But Qamari said: "Thy sleep would indeed have been a long one but for the mouse." She told him what had happened. Then she applied the herb to Usupi and Badri. They both came back to life.

    Then all the four, Qamari, Amirani, Usupi and Badri went home rejoicing.
    O happy they, three brothers true, for whom the golden sunbeams glow;
    Their wives none dare to carry off, none dare to face their deadly blow;
    None dare to break within their homes, nor to their lives bring grief and woe.


Thus they lived happily. Amirani was always in search of new adventures. He killed many giants and dragons. And the wonder of his deeds spread throughout the world. For fear of
him no bird flew under heaven, no ant crawled on earth. And soon there were but three devis, three wild boars, and three oak trees left standing in the world.

Many times had Amirani offended God but had always been forgiven, nevertheless — Amirani, who had nowhere met his match, became so confident of himself, that he desired to try his strength with his Godfather, Jesus Christ.

So once when Jesus Christ stood before him he expressed his desire to wrestle with Him. Jesus Christ said that it was a sin to fight with one's Godfather. But Amirani would not be
persuaded and wishing to test. His strength challenged his Godfather to wrestle with him. "Very well, have thy wish." said Christ. He waved a large stick above His head, and driving it deep into the ground, told Amirani to pull it pout. Amirani pulled, and with one hand drew the stick out. Then his Godfather drove another stick into the ground. Again did Amirani draw it out.

    "Art Thou playing with me?" he asked angrily.
    "Try to draw this one out," said Jesus Christ.
    And saying this He swung His stick and fixed it firmly in the ground.
    The stick took root which grew so long that soon about the world it wound.

Amirani could not pull the stick from the ground. Then Jesus Christ cursed Amirani. Upon the highest peak of the Caucasus He stuck a huge iron pole, and bound Amirani to it with a chain. He left a black-eared dog with Amirani, for the dog had killed many deer loved by God. A vulture had given it birth, so that it had wings. Every day a raven brought to them a loaf of bread and a glass of wine. Amirani and the dog pulled ceaselessly at the chain the whole year
long; The pole was almost out when lo! a bird would perch upon its top. Amirani knew that the bird was sent by God, and wishing to kill it, he flung a large iron hammer at it. The bird flew away in time to avoid the hammer.

    The hammer strikes the iron pole which sinks into the ground again.
    And every year do Amirani and the dog pull at the chain.
    The chain thus strained at soon wears out and when about to break in twain,
    The blacksmiths of the world come there and quickly make it whole again.
    And Amirani's dagger lies beside him on the ground below;
    But rust hath eaten up its blade; no more doth it with lustre glow.

"God forbid!" every Georgian prays, that Amirani ever break the chain and become free "He will first kill all the blacksmiths, and then dare defy even God."

    Let woe be far, and joy be near; chaff be there, and flour be here;
    God's blessings on the minstrel old, and all who list with eager ear!
    And up a mount I push a cart; then down the hill it rolling flies.
    We'll live in joy and die in peace, and then we'll dwell in Paradise.