Georgia is one of the oldest Christian countries. St. Andrew is believed to have preached on Georgian land. However, it was St. Nino from Cappadocia, who introduced Christianity officially in 337. Since then churches, Christian temples, monasteries and convents have been built all over the country.
Architecture and style of those temples have been reshaping according to relevant epochs. One can see ancient basilicas from 5-6th centuries, as well as cross-shaped churches with beautiful domes of later period. From 11th century monumental cathedrals were built, where kings and nobility were buried. In the same century three great cathedrals, Alaverdi (in the eastern part), Svetitskhoveli (in central Georgia) and Bagrati (in the west) were built. They represent the power and splendor of united, strong Georgia.
The churches and monasteries were usually built on high places, far from the towns, in picturesque locations. Often, they were surrounded by defensive fortifications to protect them from invaders.
Georgian Orthodox Church is famous for beautiful frescoes and icons. The oldest wall-paintings are still preserved in Davit Gareja Monastery, Kintsvisi, Atenis Sioni, Svetitskhoveli, etc. Many of old icons and ritual crosses are kept in the Treasury of the Museum of Arts in Tbilisi, as well as in Mestia Museum (in Svaneti). Nikortsminda Church in mountainous Racha is unique with its exquisite exterior decorations.
Religion plays an important role in Georgia. Not only at religious celebrations, but, also, on Sundays there are many people in churches, including youth. Georgian Orthodox Church is an integral part of Georgian national identity. Many churches are still being built where wedding ceremonies take place and children are baptized.