Georgia seeks saint's relics

The excavation site at the St Augustine’s tower, Old Goa.

Georgia’s Ambassador to India Zurab Katchkatchishvili says he has already broached the subject with Indian officials in New Delhi and a formal request will soon follow. “It is quite common for two countries to share remains of historical significance.

The queen’s relics could stay in Goa and Georgia alternatively each year,” Katchkatchishivili told Deccan Herald here.

In a dramatic interplay of history and religion, part of the relics of Queen Ketevan was brought to Goa by two Augustinian friars in 1627 and encased in a stone box within the labyrinthine St Augustine Church and Convent in Old Goa.

Taken prisoner in 1613 when Persian king Shah Abbas I sacked the east Georgian kingdom of Khakety, Queen Ketevan was put to death in Shiraz in 1624 for refusing to convert to Islam.

Her martyrdom earned her sainthood. In Goa, the Portuguese government’s expulsion of the Christian religious orders ensured the neglect of the 16th century St Augustine complex which crumbled into ruin, leaving just one church tower to stand.

It took the ASI 25 years to uncover the queen’s burial site. Though doubts persist that the human remains found at the Old Goa excavation have not been conclusively established as that of the Georgian saint, Katchkatchishvili says DNA tests will serve no purpose with descendents from the Ketevan lineage untraceable.

He says the Georgian people believe firmly that the remains found in Goa are those of their queen, and that itself is enough.

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