Anakopyiskaya (Iverskaya) mountain in New Athos (Abkhazia), the centre of Mary land. Below - the grave of apostle Simon Cananit
Ancient temple at base of Iverskaya mountain, on remains of apostle Simon Kananit.
Small cave in which, according to legend, apostle Simon lived
«A foot print» of Simon Kananit on a stone.
Fortress and temple on the Anakopyiskya mountain
The early-christian drawings which were collected in neighbouring caves
"Fishes": I - III centuries
The ancient Christian legend tells: when the resurrected Jesus had sent apostles to preach the Gospel to all people, they have gathered to cast lots about whither each of them should go. Mary, mother of Jesus had demanded, that she also would taken part with them: the country named «Iberia» had fallen to her.She had not been admitted by apostles to go on the sermon, but she had been told: select somebody from us to go instead of you, over his own lot. She has chosen apostle Simon Cananit (or Zealot), may be her relative, who earlier had invited her together with Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilea (Jn. 2:1-11). After he finished the sermon in his part (to the British) he had come to the Mary land where he has
undergone martyr death. About very early occurrence of Christianity in Iberia wrote St. Iriney from Lyon (130-202 AD).
However what is it – the country Iberia? So they name Georgia now, and there is a legend, that the Theotokos had appeared in a dream to St. Nina and sent her to principality of Kartly to the preach (315-340). Thereby the legend has purpose to substantiate, that Georgia is the Theotokos land indeed. However, academician Marr considered this version unreal: as he proved, St. Nina preached only in region of Kutais; into internal Georgia the Christianity had penetrated later through Armenia.
However during apostolic times the central and east Georgia was a part of Parthia hostile to Rome, and anyone of apostle as the Roman spy there immediately would been taken off his skin. Only the coast of Black Sea which was under control of Rome was accessible to the preach of Christianity. Anyway, Roman garrisons were standing in such brisk trade centres as Pitiunt (Pizunda) and Sebastopolis (Sukhum).
This country (now Abkhazia) is Maria's land, here Simon from Kana preached, it is a place of his martyr death – Anakopia (Nicopsia), now New Athos. Here, at the foot of Anakopia (Iberia) mountain, on Simon tomb stands the ancient (many times reconstructed) church of his name. On mountain top, in a chapel which was built by Russian monks in the end of 19 century, in altar apse the stones are placed which were extracted by monks from neighbouring caves; these stones are covered with ancient drawings and inscriptions. Images of fishes are especially remarkable: these are the secret symbols of Christians of 2 centuries. There are all bases to assume, that the commune created by apostle Simon, had survived the epoch of Roman persecutions. The deep roots of Christianity in this land may be proved by a fact of active participation of Pitiunt bishop Stratophil in first Ecumenical Council of 325 AD.
The mountain long ago is considered as «mountain of the Theotokos» and a number of remarkable local legends is connected with it. For example: «the Lord has hidden paradise in the earth and has covered with its Iberian mountain». Still: «under Iberian mountain the underground tunnel which conducts directly to the Temple mountain in Jerusalem» begins. Or such prophecy: «the time will come when all true Christianity which will remain on the earth, will gather round this mountain».
The thin hint about the «Land of Theotokos» may be found in early-Christian legend that the pigeon had brought an olive bough from "earthly paradise" to Mary death-bed. But it is proved in the book «Land of Adam» that the Bible Eden was on territory of present Abkhazia.
At last, one more unexpected parallel. In Encyclopaedia "Myths
of peoples of world" (the article «Abkhazian mythology») the known historian and the philologist G.Dzidzaria has written something very strange. He said, there is an Abkhazian legend that … «the God occurs from family Khezia». This statement becomes absolutely absurd if to consider, that Abkhazian since olden days believe in the unite, invisible and all-powerful God. There are, of course, prophets, angels and even mermaids, but the God is the God … And how it may have to do with Khezia? One of modern representatives of this family, the professional historian, was asked about this. He has smiled and told: Dzidzaria had tangled the all, it is not the God who occurs from our kin, but … the Theotokos. Things are going from bad to worse!
In connection with all this the question arises: may the legend about the Land of Theotokos hide some deeper sense? To answer this question, we will make excursus to quite another epoch – in the times of… Heracles.
The Ancient Greek myth about Heracles contains one strange geographical "discrepancy". In searches of "apples of Hesperides» the hero has passed by «grey-haired Caucasus», released the shackled Prometeus, through the country of amazons come in Kimmeria (region near Azov strait) where with the help of Atlant he receives the required apples. Till now the mythological topography is quite "logical", but why Heracles comes back through … Egypt!?
Abkhazians would tell: «where Caucasus and where Egypt»?
Many commentators were much puzzled, trying to resolve this paradox. But there is one surprisingly simple and logical decision. The gist of the matter: the self-name of ancient Egypt – "Mysr" (in the Bible – Myzraim). But in region of Pizunda there is a sacred Abkhazian place named «Mysr» (Mussera). Here is "Egypt" Heracles came back through: by which way he had arrived, by the same way he went away! Such «philological incident» not seldom occured in historical legends. The legend about Heracles has been written down when in memory only a region name was saved, and where it really was situated, they have already forgotten. But about another Mysr – namely Egypt, all people knew well… That is why «Herculean pillars» have appeared not on Bosporus or Kerch strait, but on Gibraltar, and the ocean adjoining to them began to be called "Atlantic ocean".
And here comes to mind: if such geographical error had once occurred, whether it could not repeat again? The angel, when magi had went away, appeared in a dream to Joseph has spoken: «Take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt» (Mt. 2:13). If we will recollect, how then Egypt was called, this means that the angel has told: «flee into Mysr».
And if here again was implied Abkhazian Mysr? May be it is not by
chance, there are not found any real traces of Saint Family in Egypt: only the florid east fairy tales. In Matthew narration surprises the magi behaviour: if they knew about cruel intentions of the Herod why they simply have not taken Saint Family with themselves? Perhaps, they did so really, and for this reason magi in their return have tried to avoid a meeting with the Herod. But with a view of safety, someone from relatives has started up the version about "angel" and "Egypt". And the later generation of Christians have already believed in this legend.
If so, it becames of crucial importance, whence these magi have come. Matthew tells: «From the east» (Mt. 2:1). Here we have to find out: how it sounded in language of that time: on Hebrew (more exact on Aramaic, close to it). We take in hand the modern back translation of the New testament from Greek to Hebrew and … we experience the true shock!
«The east» sounds on Hebrew (and on Aramaic) as «Erez Myzrah»!! But it is almost the same as "country Mysr". And interpretation of this word as "Egypt" here is excluded, because here it means "East", but Egypt is in the southwest in respect of Bethlehem.
Magi are the Adamician priests who had received a prophecy about Jesus birth and have come to rescue Him from danger, to take Him into Adam's earth and there to acquaint to ancient wisdom. "Star" which they had seen "in the east" (on Hebrew "va-mizrah", i.e. in Mysr) which has led them to Jesus birthplace (Mt. 2:9) could be one of «Anycha»: so the light phenomena of Divine force are called, which until now have been widespread in sacred places of Abkhazia .
The Saint Family returns home after overthrowing Arhelai the successor of Herod in 7AD: "for they are dead which sought the young child's life" (Mt.2:20). Undoubtedly, that they at once after arrival have come on adoration to Jerusalem. If to take the most probable date of Jesus birth in 6 BC, He was at this time 13 years old (Luk. 2:42), so He was already full age and quite could preach in the Temple (Luk. 2:46). Now we may return to the mysterious legend of kin Khezia.
Let us admit such succession of events. The Saint Family with a caravan of magi reaches Mysr. However it was unsafe to remain there a long time – nearby there was a large city of Pitiunt with the Roman garrison therefore bloodhounds
of Herod, who was the devoted servant and the ally of Romans, could find a trace. Then the Abkhazian priests have forwarded the family to remote in deaf village where they have pretended them as relatives of kin Khezia. Probably, they have already learnt the Abkhazian language, or, maybe, Jews were considered in those days as one of the Abkhazian tribes. It became known later, which "relatives" they are. And the legend about "Theotokos – from Khezia kin" arose: Abkhazians consider the adopted relatives above the native kinsmen. Just behind Iberia mountain there is a village Anuhva (Anhua) whose name on Abkhazian may be translated as «Mother Part». The Abkhazian women has told to us about the frequent phenomena of Theotokos Mary in these places. Her particular love to this place is quite natural: here She had passed years of Her youth, here Jesus had passed His childhood and adolescence. Exciting thought for one who sometimes wanders on footpaths of this countryside... Now it becomes clear why this earth became the land of Theotokos and why the Anakopy mountain is considered as Her mountain.
However, for religious consciousness remains a riddle why all this remained in such deep secret. There is also a question, why the mystery starts to be slightly opened just now. From the scientific point of view we deal only with a plausible hypothesis. A way to proofs – the information which is stored in ancient drawings and inscriptions, the part of which has been sought on the walls of numerous small caves in this region. But up to now nobody was engaged in regular search and decoding of this information.
The mystery of Mary land, where had passed Jesus childhood and apostle Simon Cananit has buried, is concealed for time.