Before we tell you more about the church, let us tell you where the name Vlacherna comes from. Vlacherna is the name of a place on the seashore in Constantinople, present-day Istanbul. An icon of the mother of God was kept in a church built in Vlacherna, along with sewn flaxen clothing, a belt, and a headscarf.
According to tradition, after the fall of Constantinople and the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century, the holy relics of Vlacherna were brought to the Georgian Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem.
In the 17th century this monastery was patronized by Levan II Dadiani. It seems likely that later, by the 18th century, Georgia, weakened by external and civil wars, could no longer patronize the monastery, so the holy relics were brought to Georgia.
By this time the prince of Odishi was Grigol Dadiani. At his behest, the Vlacherna icon was kept with his father-in-law, the last king of Georgia, Giorgi XII. After the king’s death, the icon turned up in Russia. Grigol Dadiani’s wife and the king’s daughter, Nino Bagrationi-Dadiani, sought for the return of the icon. Their attempts ended up being successful, seeing as the Russian emperor, Alexandre I, had the icon bedecked with precious gems and returned to Georgia. At the same time he ordered that a place should be chosen in Mingrelia for the Church of Vlacherna Mother of God to be built.
That is how the church came to be built. However, Nino Bagrationi-Dadiani did not live to see its completion. After the death of his mother, her son, Levan V Dadiani, saw the building of the church through to its completion.
At present the icon of the Vlacherna Mother of God is kept in the Art Museum of Georgia, while the robe of the Holy Mother of God is kept in the Historical Palace-Museum in Zugdidi.
However, as we stated above, the 15th of July is the Feast of the Robe of the Holy Mother of God, with the ceremony of the taking of the robe from Dadiani Palace to the church.
If you attend this amazing celebration, then you will also hear Georgian hymns glorifying the Lord sung by candlelight. It is a special experience for Christians and those of other faiths alike.