St Ketevan

The relics of St Ketevan return to India after a year in Georgia


Every year at the end of February, the St Augustine Tower at Old Goa becomes the site of the Ketevan World Music Festival. This is an event that is awaited by many, especially those that love classical music. The Ketevan World Music Festival is an event that pairs music with a religious coexistence; a space where the language of beauty and music become a bridge to connect and foster dialogue among cultures. This music festival is named for the former Georgian Queen Ketevan, also known as St Ketevan. St Ketevan’s remains were found in the tower ruins in 2004 and were preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India from then on. Now, after spending a year in her native country of Georgia, St Ketevan has returned to Goa. These relics are now back in the safety of the Goa archaeological museum at Old Goa.

St Ketevan, a lady of mystery and grace

A queen, a martyr and finally a saint, Ketevan traveled extensively, learning about a plethora of cultures. She was believed to have ruled over the kingdom of Kakheti in Georgia. It was discovered that she had a long and difficult life, eventually dying a martyr in the year 1624. Three years later, in 1627, her body was brought to India and finally buried in Old at by two Augustinian monks, who were devoted witnesses to the last years of her life. She was canonized and declared St Ketevan by the Georgian Orthodox Church shortly after her death.

St Ketevan’s relics taken to Georgia after centuries

The relics of St Ketevan were sent to Georgia in September last year. They were to stay in Georgia for only six months to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Georgia. The Georgian government made requests to the Indian government to allow the relics to remain in the country for an extended period. The Indian government agreed to do so.

Georgia and her and citizens spent the entire year celebrating the return of their St Ketevan. The relics were taken to churches all over the country where special services were held in her honor. “She returned to her country after nearly 400 years. It was a very emotional homecoming,” said Georgian envoy to India Archil Dzuliashvili. It was he who personally returned the relics to officials from the Goa chapter of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), told TOI.

Mr. Dzuliashvili also said that it was risky bringing the relics back to Georgia as they needed to be taken very good care of on the journey. “The Georgian government, Georgian national museum, the Patriarchate of Georgia and the whole community highly appreciate the trust placed on them by the ASI, ministry of culture and ministry of external affairs of the government of India that made it possible to realise this decades’ old project of bringing the sacred relics of Saint Queen Ketevan to Georgia,” he added.

A pilgrimage of sorts around Georgia

St Ketevan’s relics were recieved with great pomp and joy in September 2017. They were welcomed by Beatitude Ilia II, the Catholicos-patriarch of Georgia and many of her devotees. The relics were then taken to Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi and then onto Alaverdi Cathedral in Kakheti where they stayed for St Ketevan’s feast day – 13th September. Later, St Ketevan was taken to diocese all over Georgia so that others could share in the joy of having her back.

The Georgian national museum also hosted an international conference, ‘The Heritage of Queen Ketevan’, which was attended by specialists from ASI, founders and art director of the Ketevan World Sacred Music Festival and Portuguese specialists who were involved in the restoration project of St Queen Ketevan’s frescos in Da Graca Temple of Lisbon.

Information credit

Times of India