The World Heritage Committee, at its 32nd session(Quebec City, 2008), strongly urged the State Party to immediately start preventive conservation work on the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Complex, as well as to develop, in coordination with the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, a long-term programme for the systematic conservation of the mural paintings and mosaics with the involvement and collaboration of international specialists in this domain. The World Heritage Committee noted the State Party’s intention to prepare a new reconstruction project for Bagrati Cathedral and requested the State Party to provide assurances that no reconstruction work shall commence until the State Party has provided complete and detailed documentation concerning this project for review by the World Heritage Committee. The State Party was requested to urgently prepare, approve and provide to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, the management plan of the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Complex, including the boundaries clarification document clearly indicating its buffer zones. The World Heritage Committee encouraged the State Party to organize an awareness-raising campaign for all World Heritage properties in Georgia and invited the State Party to prepare relevant documentation in order to initiate an international donors conference designed to address the major problems identified for all World Heritage properties in Georgia.
The State Party submitted a state of conservation report dated 29 January 2009 which provides a summary of some activities accomplished and little information relevant to the state of conservation of the property. The State Party report underlined the main factors affecting the property which are the lack of a fast solution to the long-standing problems, the scarcity of the resources, as well as the unavailability of a flexible management; the negative climatic and environmental affect on the monument; the lack of qualified specialists in the domain of conservation, restoration and management of properties and unorganized visiting of the property.
a) Preventive conservation work on the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Complex
The State Party informed that monitoring activities at the property have been undertaken and provided the list of the accomplished works without any detailed report. On the basis of the evaluation of the stability of the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, the State Party proposed technical measures aiming to increase the stability of the structures. The State Party also informed that the database, containing information on Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery has being created.
b) Reconstruction project for Bagrati Cathedral
In 2004, ICOMOS noted that any reconstruction must be carried out in keeping with the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and its authenticity and therefore it would be more appropriate to retain the property as a ruin.
In January 2008, the President of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church initiated the reconstruction project of the Bagrati Cathedral with the intention of restoring the initial religious use and functions of the Cathedral, which was previously discussed at the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee (Suzhou, 2004).
The World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, July 2008) urged the State Party not to carry out any reconstruction work which may adversely affect the Outstanding Universal Value and its authenticity and strongly urged the State Party not to commence any constructions before consideration of the project by the World Heritage Committee.
The reactive monitoring mission in 2008 informed the authorities of the provisions in the Operational Guidelines concerning authenticity and, in particular that the reconstruction of historic buildings is justifiable only in exceptional circumstances, and only on the basis of complete and detailed documentation and to no extent on conjecture.
The authorities confirmed that the final decision will only be made after an analysis of reconstruction possibilities for the Cathedral has been completed, and following a review of the project by the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, and examination by the World Heritage Committee.
In the report, the State Party underlined that the rehabilitation of Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery is a priority. The 2009 budget resources for the conservation of the monuments highlight the State policy regarding the preservation of the cultural heritage.
The report mentioned some works accomplished. While these works mark the initial stage of the conservation process of the Bagrati Cathedral, they seem to be preparatory activities of its reconstruction :
- Technical status of the surface and underground bearing structures assessed and studied (laboratory research and analyses, fixation of micro and macro cracks, study of their length, width, depth and gaps, mapping and drafting passports of damages).
- Research of construction materials, laboratory analyses (recommendations on compliance of the materials existing on the site with the materials to be used).
- Preliminary art history research (bibliography, on-site research and recommendations, drafting reference and archive material list).
The detailed rehabilitation / reconstruction project of the Bagrati Cathedral has not been provided by the State Party as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008).
c) Management plan of the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Complex
The State Party informed that all necessary documents have been prepared in order to start the elaboration and implementation of the management plan of the property. No documents have been submitted by the State Party in the report for review.
d) Boundaries clarification issue
The State Party underlined that the Law of Georgia “On the Cultural Heritage” determines a 1 km special protection area for the property. The protection zones of the monuments are being adjusted and expanded. No documents have been submitted by the State Party in the report for review.
e) Awareness-raising campaign and international donors conference
The State Party did not provide any view concerning the eventual preparation of the international donors conference designed to address major problems identified for all World Heritage properties in Georgia.
The World Heritage and ICOMOS noted that the State Party should provide the detailed information on any accomplished works. Taking into account the brief summary report it would be necessary to obtain further detailed information concerning each element of the report, especially concerning the rehabilitation project, management plan and the conservation and monitoring work progress report, as well as the information on boundary issues.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS remain greatly concerned by the scope of the problems, in particular the Bagrati Cathedral reconstruction project and the absence of the detailed report responding to the World Heritage Committee requests.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS recall the recommendation that the work programme designed to address the major problems identified with this property and the preparation of the donor’s conference for all World Heritage properties in Georgia should be included in the Georgian Cultural Heritage Programme.