The Feast in Honour of the Chiton (Tunic) of the Lord and the Life-Giving Pillar is the temple feast of the Mtskheta patriarchal cathedral in honour of the Twelve Holy Apostles, named the Svetitskhoveli ((სვეტიცხოვლის, which in translation means “Life-Giving Pillar”). According to the tradition of the Georgian Church, the Chiton (Greek word, in Latin “Tunic”) of the Lord – the seamless garment of the Saviour (Jn. 19: 23) – came to the ancient capital city of Georgia, Mtskheta, in the following manner.
Elioz of Mtskheta acquiring the Robe of the Lord
Eleazar (or Elioz), rabbi of the Mtskheta community of Jews, had resettled to Georgia from Jerusalem already by the year 70 A.D. Having received news from the Jerusalem high-priest Annas about the impending execution of Christ, he hastened to Jerusalem in the company of Longinus Carsnitus [or “carsnifex”, the Latin meaning “executioner”]. They became eye-witnesses to the Passion of the Lord and the casting of lots for His garment (Jn. 19: 23-24; Ps. 21 : 18).
At the moment when the All-Pure Body of the Lord was nailed to the Cross, the mother of Elioz, situated in Mtskheta, sensed the blows of the hammer in her heart and shuddered out of great fright. Having related to her daughter Sidonia about the crucifixion sufferings of the Saviour, guiltlessly given over unto death, the mother of Elioz then died. Elioz then acquired the Chiton from the soldier who by lots had won it, and he took it with him to Mtskheta.
Sidonia, meeting her brother Elioz in tears, told him about the death of their mother and her words just before her death. Elioz confirmed the words of their mother and he showed his sister the Chiton (Tunic) of the Lord. Taking hold the Chiton, Righteous Sidonia kissed it all over, pressed it to her bosom and herewith fell down lifeless. No one, not even the emperor Aderk (2 B.C.-55 A.D.) was able to open the grasp of Sidonia nor take from her the Chiton. Righteous Sidonia (Comm. 1 October) was secretly consigned to earth by her brother Elioz in the imperial garden at Mtskheta.
The miracle of the Life-giving Pillar
The holy Saint Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostle, stold about this to the Kartalin Hebrew highpriest Aviathar – a descendent of rabbi Elioz. He came to believe in Christ, having listened to the explanation by Saint Nino of the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah, and how these prophecies were fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Georgian king Mirian (265-342) was also converted by holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Saint Nino, and he decided to build a Christian church on the spot whereupon the Chiton of the Lord was situated. A massive cedar tree had grown on the grave of Sidonia, which they sawed, and wanted to use its truck as a foundation pillar for supporting the main cupola of the church, but they were not able to raise it upright. Saint Nino prayed all night for Divine help. and visions were manifest to her, in which were revealed the historical courses of destiny of Georgia.
At dawn an Angel of the Lord approached the pillar and raised it in the air. The pillar, shining with a wondrous light, was elevated and then lowered in the air, until it was set over its base. From the stump of the cedar issued a fragrant myrh. Thus the Angel of the Lord indicated the place, where the Chiton (Tunic) of the Lord was concealed in the ground. This event, witnessed to by many of the inhabitants of Mtskheta, is depicted on the icon, “Glorification of the Georgian Church”. Afterwards at the place of the wooden church was erected the majestic stone cathedral of Svetitskhoveli. The Life-Giving Pillar, from which occurred many healings, has at present a stone four-cornered covering and is crowned by a light-loft, not touching the arch of the cathedral. The Pillar is positioned in the Sveti-Tskhoveli cathedral with a model alongside of the Church of the Sepulchre of the Lord at Jerusalem.
From “Lives of the Saints”, Saint John of Kronstadt Press