Elder Vitaly


The holy confessor Gabriel (Urgebadze) was born on August 26, 1929. His name in the world was Goderdzi. For a long time, his mother was against her son’s aspiration to monasticism, but towards the end of her life she reconciled herself with his choice, and subsequently she herself took the veil. She also was buried at Samtavro Monastery.

Goderdzi came to believe in God while he was still a child. One time the neighbors were fighting, and one of them said, “You have crucified me like Christ.” The boy began to wonder what “crucified” meant, and Who Christ was. The adults sent the child off to the church, where the church warden advised him to read the Gospel. He saved up his money, bought a Gospel, and in a few years had learned the text practically by heart.

A longing for monasticism arose in him in his youth. Later, the elder would say, “There is no greater heroism than monasticism.” And he proved this by his whole life.

He took monastic vows when he was 26, receiving the name of Gabriel, after St. Gabriel of Mt. Athos, the Starets Who had walked through the water and brought to shore the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, which had floated to Athos over the sea. Fr. Gabriel especially revered the wonderworking copy of the Iveron Icon kept at Samtavro Monastery.

Fr. Gabriel built a church with several cupolas in the cwurtyard of his home on Tetri Tskaro Street in Tbilisi. He erected it with his own hands and finished around 1962. Fr. Gabriel found the icons for this church at the town dumps, where in those atheistic times people brought and threw out, along with the trash, a large number of sacred objects. Sometimes he wandered around the dumps days on end. He had a small studio where he cleaned the icons and gave them frames and settings of various materials. The walls of his church were covered with icons. He even framed photographs and pictures of icons from secular magazines.