The World Heritage Committee, at its 29th session (Durban, 2005), expressed “serious concern over the state of conservation of this property” and urged the State Party to take urgent and appropriate measures, including implementing the Master Plan developed by UNESCO and UNDP in 2003, defining appropriate core and buffer zones of the property, and addressing the problem of the illegal and inappropriate additions to the old Catholicos Palace that affect Mtskheta's outstanding universal value.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Georgia submitted on 12 March 2007 a state of conservation report dated January 2007 which covers a wide range of areas of concern:
The State Party recalls the justification supplied in the nomination document at the time of inscription, however does not provide a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value. The State Party also attempts to articulate a Statement of Authenticity/ Integrity but not fully in accordance with the Operational Guidelines. In this regard, the State Party notes a significant number of losses of authenticity, including: The Palace of Catholicos-Patriarch Anton II, inappropriate interventions by local clergy at the Svetitskhoveli Complex; erroneous “restoration” works (suspended in 2004), executed at the church of the Jvari Monastery; inappropriate reconstruction works at the six-apse Church in Armaztsikhe-Bagineti.
The State Party also notes a number of monuments which have been “completely destroyed” as a result of the recent work:
a) some bas-reliefs of the Jvari monastery;
b) the belfry of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral;
c) a part of the fortification system in Armaztsikhe-Bagineti.
ICOMOS finds these reports very worrying as in the circumstances the reported loss of authenticity implies a significant potential loss of outstanding universal value.
The State Party reports that in December 2005, the President of Georgia issued a Decree which reorganized the Mtskheta Museum-Reserve (1968) into the Greater Mtskheta State Archaeological Museum-Reserve (2007). The State Party notes that in January 2007, the Mtskheta Heritage Integrated Management Commission was instituted within the Municipality to better coordinate at local level the “sustainable and integrated conservation and management of the cultural heritage located on the territory of Mtskheta”. However the State Party notes that no progress has been made in development of a management plan for the property and that the 2003 Mtskheta Heritage and Tourism Master Plan was being used to guide short and long term decision making for the site.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS are very concerned that the State Party has not been able to pursue implementation of the Master Plan developed by UNESCO and UNDP in 2003. ICOMOS believes strongly, given evident different views about development between Church and State, and the already strong reported material losses of authenticity that it is of paramount importance that a management plan involving all stakeholders be developed urgently.
Furthermore, the State Party report provides a detailed monitoring overview of physical conditions of the four major components of the nominated property:
a) Jvari Church: Apart from discussing difficult moisture management situations which threaten the survival of important frescoes, bas reliefs and materials, comments also concern unauthorized construction activities undertaken by the Georgian Church on site. The report notes that though damaging efforts to reconstruct the northern small church have been halted, the church and the parekklesion remain without roofing.
b) Svetitskhoveli Cathedral: The report comments on structural problems at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. The seventeenth century Bell Tower has been demolished, and that “absolutely erroneous “reconstruction” works” carried out on the recently discovered 11th century Melchisedec Palace have been very damaging. The State Party repeats comments of 2005 that “it is of paramount importance for the future of the monument that stratigraphic investigations, systematic archaeological excavations, and conservation should be initiated all over the churchyard…”.
c) Samtavro Monastery: The report notes that while stabilisation works were completed in 2003, a permanent solution to roofing the Cathedral has not been found and archaeological research had not been completed before the beginning of the “restoration” works inside the Cathedral. The report also notes that the associated belfry is in serious danger of collapse.
d) Armaztsikhe-Bagineti: The report notes that the six-apse church of the second and third centuries AD, excavated in the 1990s is in an alarming state, and that it has completely lost its authenticity due to priority given reconstruction over conservation of the discovered monument. The report also documents threats to monuments excavated in the 1940s, the roman-type baths, and the fortification system, the major part of which has been irretrievably lost.
As noted in earlier reports, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS remain greatly concerned by the severity and scope of the problems described, and the inability of the State Party to address these.
The State Party report further notes that on 27 October 2006, the Minister of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sport and the Minister of Economic Development issued a joint Order n° 3/471 – 1-1/1243 “On the Definition of the Cultural Heritage Protection Zones in Mtskheta”. This joint Order provides for the establishment of a series of zones to better focus protection in the territory of Mtskheta, including:
a) The Immovable Monuments Protection Zone (IMPZ) to protect both physically and visually the monuments existing in the Mtskheta urban fabric: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Samtavro Nunnery, Antiochia and Gethsimania Churches;
b) The Construction Regulation Zone (CRZ), a buffer zone, aimed at protecting the integrity of the Mtskheta Historic Centre and its historical landscape;
c) The Archaeological Heritage Protection Zone (AHPZ) including the major archaeological complexes located on the territory of Mtskheta and its surroundings;
d) The Landscape Protection Zone (LPZ) to protect the “historically formed landscape as an indissoluble natural and cultural phenomenon”.
Following reports in earlier years of serious problems at the Javari Monastery it is noted that the Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sport of Georgia and ICCROM had launched a joint project (2005) aimed at monitoring, documentation and conservation of Jvari Monastery. The report also notes that a second phase of ICCROM’s project will address development of a conservation plan for the site, and continue the training of Georgian specialists. Efforts to develop cooperation with the Council of Europe within the framework of the Kyiv Initiative Regional Programme, to assist Jvari are also mentioned. Finally, the report a documentation project planned for 2007, with the support of the Society and Heritage Association (Georgia) and the World Monuments Fund is indicated. Such an integrated and multi-stakeholder approach to resolve the problems of Jvari Monastery is to be commended.