Mtskheta was the old capital and political center of the Kingdom of Kartli (IV c. BC – VI c. AD). In the beginning of VI c. when the capital moved to Tbilisi, Mtskheta retained the function of the seat of Kartli Church and from XI century – the spiritual center of the whole Georgia. Until 1811 here was situated the seat of the Head of Georgian Church – the residence of the Georgian Partiarch. Mtskheta is rich with both archeological (Bronze and Stone Ages) and Antique and Christian era historical memorials. Among them it is worth mentioning Armazi – the residence and burial site of the Royals of Kartli from Parnavaziani dynasty (IV c. BC – V c. AD), cathedrals of Jvari (VI c.), Svetitskhoveli (XI c.), Samtavro (XI c.), monasteries of Shiomgvime and Zedazeni (VI c.), fortress of Bebri.
In front of Mtskheta, on the mountain, stands Jvari monastery which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name of the cathedral is related to high wooden cross which was erected on this place by king Mirian. In the second half of VI century the sovereign of Kartly Guaram built a small church beside the cross. This small house of worship is called today Small Jvari Church. On the brink of VI-VII cc. the son of Guaram – sovereign Stepanoz I (586-605) built a big cathedral beside the small one which capped the wooden cross (the abutment of the cross has been preserved until today). After Bolnisi Sioni Jvari cathedral represents a new stage in the development of architectural art. 3 bas-relief images of individuals who masterminded and paid for construction of the church are placed on the eastern façade: in the middle, sovereign Stepanoz genuflecting before Christ; on the left – his brother Demetre with protector angel, on the right – heir apparent of Stepanoz, Adarnase (above him is depicted an angel with widely spread wings and a right hand stretched forward); in front of Adarnase is a child on the knees – his son. All three bas-reliefs have Asomtavruli inscriptions containing names and titles of builders.
Jvari cathedral launched a new stage of the Georgian religious architecture – dome church. In VII century the whole group of similar churches were founded which were close to Mtskheta Jvari in layout and general structure. They are Ateni Sioni, Old Shuamta, Martvili.