The Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sport of Georgia submitted, as requested by the World Heritage Committee, at its 31th session (Christchurch, 2007), a state of conservation report dated 25 January 2008 confirming that no significant progress has been made since the World Heritage Committee's last decision.
A joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission carried out from 2 to 10 June 2008 to the Historic Monuments of Mtskheta and to the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, met all relevant representatives and discussed the following issues:
In January 2008, the President of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church initiated the reconstruction project of the Bagrati Cathedral based on the intention to recreate the initial religious use and functions of the Cathedral, which was previously discussed at the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee (Suzhou, 2004). ICOMOS, in 2004, took a view 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. The World Heritage Committee 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 mission informed the authorities of the provisions in the Operational Guidelines concerning authenticity, 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.
The preparatory activities, including, documentation, detailed examination of structures and stability of the walls, evaluation of the general state of conservation and examination of construction materials, as well as reuse of more than 400 authentic stone construction elements inventoried inside and outside the historic building will be finalized by the end of 2008.
Following the evaluation of the state of conservation of this element of the World Heritage property, the mission noted the critical structural stability of the walls and recommended starting immediately, in parallel to any possible decision concerning the project, the preventive conservation works of the Bagrati Cathedral.
Gelati Monastery Complex
The mission evaluated the general state of conservation of the main components of the property.
- Virgin Mary Church:
The mission observed the damage of the roof, stone elements and accumulation of humidity in the north-eastern part of the Church and concluded that the exterior of the Cathedral is in need of urgent conservation/restoration work. The Ministry of Culture confirmed that a competition for an architectural conservation project had already been organized. The mission underlined the need for the authorities provide the project proposal for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies.
The mission noted that no preventive actions have been undertaken by the Georgian conservation services concerning the mural paintings of great value. Only in the narthex, has diagnostic research on the wall paintings of the Virgin Mary Church been carried out by the Cultural and Art Fund of Georgia in 2004-2005. However no conservation action has been taken.
The mission strongly recommended that the authorities prepare, 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 the international specialists in this domain.
- St George Church, St. Nicolas Church, Bell Tower
The architectural conservation project for these monuments is part of the above-mentioned competition organized by the Ministry of Culture. The mission expressed its concern about the increasing gravity of the physical situation of these monuments and strongly urged the authorities to undertake the necessary conservation works to ensure the long term survival of these monuments.
Management plan and boundary issues
In accordance with the 2007 Law on Cultural Heritage and with this Constitutional Agreement, the management of the religious cultural heritage properties still lies under the State Party's authority but is carried out in agreement with the Church. No management plan exists for the property. The mission recommended that the preparation of the World Heritage property management plan, in coordination with all relevant stakeholders, be added, as a priority, to the Cultural Heritage Programme.
In addition, the mission underlined the necessity to prepare an awareness-raising campaign for all World Heritage properties in Georgia, including installation of the plaques commemorating the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List.
The authorities did not mention their 2007 proposals concerning a new statement of authenticity/integrity, as well as a new approach to the justification of the property, including the possible re-nomination under two additional criteria, (i) and (ii). The mission did not consider that a re-nomination of the property under new criteria would be justified. However, the State Party should provide a draft of Statement of Outstanding Universal Value.
The mission recommended to the authorities that the work programme designed to address the major problems identified with this property and the preparation of the donors conference for all World Heritage properties in Georgia be included in the Georgian Cultural Heritage Programme.