A giant metal cross that was bolted to the entrance of Tbilisi’s parliament building remains standing more than a week after violent anti-LGBT protests broke out.
A distinctive cross was affixed to the stone steps of Georgia’s parliament on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli Avenue on July 5.
The Orthodox Christian symbol was installed as crowds of anti-LGBT protesters gathered on Rustaveli and violent extremists attacked journalists after a planned gay-pride march was called off due to security concerns. Conservative activists are now warning that the cross must not be touched, while others have called for its removal.
St. Nino’s cross, also known as the grapevine cross, is a fourth-century Christian symbol used by the Georgian Orthodox Church. The cross is associated with St. Nino, a woman who spread Christianity on the territory of today’s Georgia while traveling with the unusually shaped cross -- distinctive for its drooping horizontal arms -- that was twined with grapevine.
The activists who emplaced the 3.5-meter-high cross cited its location -- on the site of a demolished tsarist-era cathedral -- as a reason for its installation. The Aleksandr Nevsky Cathedral stood at the site of the current parliament but was demolished by Soviet authorities in 1930 to build the government building.
On July 8, a group of activists planned a rally to demand that the cross be removed.
Nata Peradze, an organizer of the protest, told RFE/RL’s Georgian Service that "it is absolutely unacceptable, both legally and morally, to install such a symbol in a secular state when the denomination it represents is violent and preaches homophobia.”
Peradze says the group planned to bring flowers for the “funeral of the secular state” but the action was called off after threats of violence.
Giorgi Kardava, a leader of an ultranationalist group that threatened to counter the protest against the cross, warned that “these people do not understand what they are dealing with. If this cross is touched or disrespected in any way, I will not be held accountable for what happens.”
A representative from Tbilisi’s city hall responded to a query from RFE/RL about the future of the cross, saying, "We are still discussing this issue and we will inform you as soon as we have a decision."
Written by Amos Chapple based on reporting by Tamuna Chkareuli