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St Nino & the conversion of Georgia

While some of the legends that have grown up around St Nino are ridiculously far-fetched, there is no doubt that Nino is the historical figure to whom the 4th-century Christian conversion of Iveria (eastern Georgia) can be attributed. Nino is generally believed to have hailed from Cappadocia in eastern Turkey and a widespread version has it that she was the daughter of a Roman general, Zabulon, and was also related to St George. Other accounts aver that she was a slave girl. The most common account of her youth has it that she was brought up in Jerusalem under the eye  of an uncle who was Patriarch of Jerusalem, and at the age of 14 experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary telling her that her destiny was to convert the Iverians to Christianity.

Coming to Iveria in the 320s, Nino won respect from the people by her good deeds and the miracles she performed. But it was only at Mtskheta, when her prayers managed to save Queen Nana of Iveria from serious illness, that she won a royal convert. King Mirian was harder to convince, until he was struck blind while hunting, only for his sight to be miraculously restored after he prayed to the Christian God – leading to mass baptism in the Aragvi River for the townsfolk of Mtskheta. Mirian made Christianity the official religion of Iveria in about AD 327. The vine-leaf cross that the Virgin allegedly gave Nino (and which Nino later bound with her own hair) is still kept at the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi. She remains Georgia’s most venerated saint, and is buried at Bodbe Convent in Kakheti.