According to Georgian folklore, a hero by the name of Amirani stole fire from the hands of the gods as a gift to his fellow mortals. In punishment, the Prometheus-esque figure was chained high atop Mount Kazbeg’s perilous slopes. Scholars estimate that the nearest spot to his imprisonment is likely that of the current Orthodox hermitage, located inside the Bethlehem (locally: “Betlemi”) Cave at more than 13,000 feet up the mountain. Despite a titanic mythos, Kasbeg’s draw remains more tantalizing to mountaineers than literary and history buffs. The dormant stratovolcano is a mountaineers delight with a prominence of 7,720 feet that is relatively easy to access, making Georgia’s third-highest mountain the perfect pairing of accessible and challenging among the legendarily rugged Caucasus range.
Along the way, many trekkers are given respite within the walls of a 14th-century Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic church. Located three hours straight up the mountainside from the nearest town, the holy refuge known as Gergeti Trinity consists of little more than a cross-cupola church and a separate bell tower. During the invasion by Tbilisi Persians in the 18th century, precious relics from Mtskheta, including Saint Nino's Cross were brought here for safekeeping. During the Soviet era, all religious services were prohibited, but the church remained a popular tourist destination. The church is now an active establish hment of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.
In the face of such astounding beauty, Gergeti Trinity’s modest exterior suddenly becomes all the more breathtaking for its simplicity, made all the more so for the benevolence of its residents taking in those sometimes strident folk who seem hellbent on following in the footsteps of castigated heroes they’ve long-since cast aside.