- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
45

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH THE CAUCASUS
45
the other side was the Church of the Cross like
an eagle’s eyry. The way the Georgians had of
building churches upon high inaccessible mountain
tops like this one was certainly remarkable. The
explanation given by the Frenchman Chardin
(in 1672), that it was "to get out of decorating
them or keeping them up, as it was seldom anyone
went up there", seems hardly to be the right one;
rather wc have here, perhaps, an expression of the
Persian doctrine that on the lofty, holy mountains
wc are nearer to Heaven and the Lord. But most
likely of all the custom stood also in connection with
security: on such mountain-tops it was easier to
defend oneself and the church’s sacred vessels
against the attacks of heathen bands that often
made inroads in the land. This church, like most of
the others, had once been surrounded by a high
wall with watch-towers to strengthen the defence.
The way went on along the Kura, which here
måkes a sharp bend southwards through a gorge,
after håving come from the west-north-west. Then
the road crosses a bridge, and winds back eastwards
along the left bank of the stream past the oldest
capital of Georgia, Mzkhetha, lying on the tongue of
land where the Aragva from the north falls into the
Kura. Here is the venerable cathedral with the
royal tombs. Then wc go north again through the
Aragva valley past an old convent and the ruins of
a fortress. Here wc are on holy and historical soil,
filled with memories from the oldest times of the
nation, and with remains from Georgia’s prehistory,
and wc can feel the melancholy that runs through all

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