Sioni Cathedral is one of the most remarkable monuments of Georgian medieval architecture. It is located in Old Tbilisi, in the area of Sionis Kucha. The original church was built in the VI and VII centuries, but since then had been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. As a consequence, the modern view of the cathedral belongs mainly to the 13th century. Sioni Cathedral is inseparably linked with the history of the city: it lived and prospered, was built and destroyed, passed through fire and copper pipes together with Tbilisi. Sioni Cathedral is of particular importance for Georgians because it is home to the sacred cross of St. Nino, the patron saint of Georgia. According to legend, this cross was made of grapevine branches connected with each other by Saint Nino’s own hair. A copy of the cross is located behind the bronze lattice to the left of the iconostasis.
The name of the cathedral was in honor of the sacred Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The history of the cathedral goes back through centuries, and there are still no reliable facts. From the medieval Georgian chronicles, it is only known that the construction of the church began during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century. A century later, in 575 the prince of Iberia (Kartli) Guaram began the construction of a new church, which was completed in the middle of the 7th century by his successors. During the Middle Ages, the Cathedral was completely rebuilt by King David Agmashenebeli in the 12th century. The basic elements of the existing church refer specifically to this period.
Until 2004, the Sioni Cathedral was the residence of the Catholicos, the Patriarch of the Georgian Christian Church. Despite the high status of the temple, its exterior is designed in a modest and restrained style. However, the interior of the church is impressive: it is richly decorated with frescoes and icons in gold and dark turquoise colors. Doors and marble doorways are intricately decorated with patterns that resemble one of the symbols of Georgia – winding grapevine.