The walk afforded gorgeous views over our awesome location, perched on a hillside overlooking the Alazani Valley. The Greater Caucuses stretch across the sky, a string of snowcaps. A restaurant at the entrance of the nunnery was closed and construction work could be heard in the distance.
Not able to read Georgian, we only surmised that we'd made it by familiar tourist attraction decor: the universal "no cell phone" and "no flash photography" signs. Soon after we arrived, a car pulled up with four other visitors. Just as I did at the gate, the women pulled their hoods over their heads and wrapped scarves around their waists for knee coverage. The youngest girl in the group tied a gift shop handkerchief as best she could around her forehead.Saint Nino is buried at Bodbe Monastery and she's one important lady. Along with Saint George, she is the patron saint of the country and is credited with converting the pagan king Marian III, who then declared Christianity the official religion of the land. It was he who then ordered this monastery to be built at the site of Nino's death, circa 340.
I found it appropriate that a site dedicated to a female evangelist now functions as a nunnery. Though, during Soviet rule, the monastery was converted into a hospital. Before that, through the centuries, it was a monastic chanting school, a haven to religious writers and painters and the home of one of Georgia's largest collection of religious books, among other things.
Throughout its life, it has been renovated and added to and, even today, appears to be getting a facelift and large, new building. Most of what is here now was built in the 18th century and refurbished at the beginning of the 21st. One thing that has remained relatively unchanged since the 4th century, though, is the view.
About 3km downhill, along a leaf covered trail with sporadic stairs, we found the Holy Spring. Locals come to drink from the water here, which is said to have sprung up when Saint Nino knelt down to pray on the spot. The small building housing the spring was constructed in the 1990s.
There were sandals and towels there for bathers and a small cup for those preferring only to take a sip. Next door, smoke rose from the chimney of a small house. Laundry hung outside and I wondered if that was the person taxed with watching over the spring or simply a resident who predated the construction. Bodbe Monastery is simple and impressive. It feels lived in, but also open for exploration and reflection. We were happy to be pilgrims for the day.