Visiting the tomb of St Nino

1043 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

3/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

June, 2023

Product name

Bodbe Monastery of St Nino

Product country

Georgia

Product city

Sighnaghi

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Culture/Sightseeing

The Bodbe Monastery of St Nino, more commonly now known as Bodbe Nunnery, is the final resting place of the evangelist who converted Georgians, and in particular Queen Nana and King Mirian, to Christianity in the 4th century. Having died at a relatively young age, the King built a small chapel, over St Nino’s tomb.

In the chapel, rebuilt and renovated several times, we found the partly silver coloured tomb with a jewelled turquoise halo, topped with the symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church: the grapevine cross with slightly drooping horizontal arms. Frescoes adorned the walls and an icon of St Nino had been damaged when it was used as an operating table during the Soviet era, when the chapel was converted into a hospital. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, it resumed as a nunnery, and because of its religious significance it was crowded, and photos were not allowed.

Nearby was a much larger church made from granite and tuff: a rock made of volcanic ash which resembles a sponge, making it look much older than its 10 years. On entering the church, an elderly nun dressed all in black at the entrance, whipped out her mobile and began chatting loudly. Inside, the altar was highly decorated with mosaics, and we could see the outline of the part which will be completed when funding becomes available. The marble iconostasis had four icons: St John, Mary in red, Jesus with his fingers in the closed praying position, and St Nino.

In both churches, I had to cover my head and we’d been told to wear long trousers.

There was also a free-standing three-storey belltower, erected between 1862 and 1885, and extensive grounds with manicured lawns and colourful flower beds. We were told that the 40 nuns would do all the work and most nunneries would have a sign saying ‘work is healthy’ – in that it stopped temptation from worldly things.

A steep path led 800m down to a small chapel built over St Nino’s spring which reputedly burst forth after she prayed on this spot. Whilst pilgrims queue up to drink and splash themselves with the holy water, we were in danger of being splashed with rain, so as clouds swirled overhead, we skipped the gift shop and café and headed for lunch and beer tasting.

Helen Jackson

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