According to the Ministry of Culture of Georgia, the reason for the closure of the World Heritage Site is the monitoring of the wall painting by UNESCO experts, after the representative of the NGO “Europe is our home” Tornike Baratashvili found the monastery closed and one of the cultural heritage gates. The car “Niva” belonging to the representative of the Security Agency was fixed.
According to Tornike Baratashvili, the entrance to the monastery was blocked by a car and security guards put it at the east gate after he posted a photo on the social network. According to the representative of the non-governmental organization, the process is not transparent, which raises even more questions. At the same time, pilgrims, local and international visitors who go to the monastery and do not even have access to the complex courtyard will experience discomfort.
“I also attended several groups that had planned a tour and came back. This is one problem. The main thing is that it has been confirmed that the reconstruction of the cultural heritage monument in 2015-2020 loses its value and, therefore, all the work done now, every step must be known to the public in advance. There is no trust in the process, so it is necessary to communicate from the Ministry, which the society really deserves. “, – says Tornike Baratashvili and adds that monitoring of the processes by the society is necessary: “If we leave the state there alone behind a locked door, in a direct and figurative sense, the condition of the Gelati Monastery Complex as a cultural heritage monument will be called into question in the future. No minister is allowed to make personal decisions, nor any of the political forces. Gelati is much more than modernity. “
Tornike Baratashvili believes that the closure of the monastery complex for the purpose of monitoring the wall painting is unacceptable, as the movement of visitors in the monastery yard will not be a hindrance for specialists.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia, a UNESCO expert, who visited Gelati on June 23-30, paid his second visit to the Gelati Monastery Complex at the invitation of the Ministry. The purpose of the visit of the specialist is to monitor the condition of the wall painting of the Gelati monastery complex and compare the current situation with the current situation in June.
Italian experts: Wall Painting Condition CriticalA
The first mission of the group of experts was held in Gelati on June 23-30 at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture. Two groups of experts – Mario Pulier, wall painting conservation specialists, Vincenzo Centan and roofing specialists Hugo Tonietti and Sara Stephanin – studied the situation in Gelati on the spot and submitted findings to the ministry in early August, assessing the Gelati
Concluding the condition of the wall painting, the condition of the frescoes of the Church of the Virgin of Gelati Monastery is critical, as the monumental paintings are saturated with water and the moisture poses a daily threat to them.
“Although the installation of a temporary solid roof over the main temple in July 2020 halted the water infiltration process, the condition of the wall painting was critical due to the large amount of infiltrated water at the time of the temporary roof installation. The critically unstable condition of the wall painting is observed not only in the western arm, but also in the north arm arch and the western wall, in the south arm arch and on the north-west and south-west sails., – says the conclusion, the authors of which are wall painting conservation specialists Mario Pulier and Vincenzo Chentan.
The conclusion of the roofing specialists Hugo Tonietti and Sara Stephanin, which reflects the situation after the rehabilitation of the roof of the Gelati temples, says that the situation is critical here: In summary, it should be said that as a result of the variety of approaches and techniques used in the Gelati complex, a rather difficult picture emerges. It was as if the performers were acting in a nominal, emergency situation without any plan at all and had to improvise various decisions. “.
What UNESCO obliges Georgia to do
The resolution of the 44th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which was published in August, is also critical. The document states that „Gelati Restoration Unsuitable Methods Practice Problems Created Conservation measures have failed. Of the Virgin At the temple Installed Tiled Roofed Roofs And St. George Of the Church Permanent Moisture Wall Painting Serious Injury Caused.
UNESCO considers it necessary to arrange such a roof over the Church of the Assumption, which will protect the church from damage. UNESCO also considers it necessary to close St. George’s Church immediately so that the building is protected from rain and snow.
The Georgian government must submit another report to the World Heritage Committee by February 1, 2022, so that the issue can be discussed at the next, 45th session.
As an art historian, Mzia Janjalia, Chief Researcher at the Giorgi Chubinashvili National Research Center for the History of Georgian Art and Monument Protection, Mzia Janjalia, a member of the Monumental Fine Arts Section of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Council, is a member of the 44th UNESCO World Heritage Committee. In general, the reconstruction of Gelati is named as inappropriate, damaging the universal value of the monument due to lack of proper professional skills or materials, and the committee requests the state to provide such temporary roofs for both structures, which will prevent continuous conservation work.
According to Mzia Janjalia, a special and reliable temporary roof was mentioned last year in the conclusion of the international non-governmental organization ICOMOS Georgia (International Council of Monuments and Sites) and a tent-type roof was recommended for both temples, not the one installed last winter. “The metal sheets that covered the temple do not reduce the humidity, but, on the contrary, increase the humidity, which poses an even greater threat to the frescoes. The paintings are already wet in the temples and they do not dry out “, – says Mzia Janjalia.
According to the specialist, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee calls on the Georgian authorities to develop a monument conservation program and monitoring indicators, to implement a monument management plan and to establish a monument management committee after its evaluation and renewal.
The Committee also calls for the mobilization of more international resources, including assistance to implement short- and medium-term measures to improve the condition of the monument. The document also emphasizes that all the mentioned measures related to Gelati should be agreed with the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The resolution refers to the reporting period of 2017-2021 and the report on the relevant measures of the document will be discussed at the 45th session of the committee next year.
How Gelati meets winter
Mzia Janjalia does not understand the part of the Ministry’s statement, according to which “Based on the findings of Italian specialists and with the involvement of Georgian specialists, a further action plan for the Gelati monastery complex is being developed in the Ministry, which will be made public as soon as it is drafted.”
As the art historian explains, in August he himself attended a meeting of the Extended Council under the Ministry of Culture, at which both conclusions were discussed and Georgian specialists deemed the need for an alternative examination. According to Mzia Janjalia, some Georgian specialists demand that the report of the specialists invited by the Ministry of Culture be sent to alternative groups of specialists for review and that a council of highly qualified foreign and Georgian specialists develop a further action plan.
“In principle, it is important to have a reconciled conclusion and remove the question marks. We have questions about the recommendations of Italian specialists. I can not go into the technical details, but for example I will tell you that according to the conclusion, the conservation material is determined for a dry wall, while in Gelati temples the walls are wet and do not dry out. Ways to speed up drying are suggested, which is also noteworthy. The works are not divided into stages – short-term, urgent, long-term, ie there is no clear vision. The documents also do not show that the two groups of specialists discussed the issues together. We have no right to make another mistake, so the issues need to be reconciled. “, – Janjalia thinks and adds that “The statement of the Ministry, according to which the Italian specialist will arrive for monitoring in three months, is not serious. The monument should be monitored daily. The assessments of the invited specialists were one of the assessments that a small group of Georgian specialists had said before, but the official structures did not recognize it, and if not for the activity of public organizations, the agency would call this complex problem only a roofing and tile defect, nor a large-scale reconstruction problem.
The art historian believes that the Gelati rehabilitation process lacks publicity and transparency, and the reconstruction of the monument has revealed problems in the field. According to Janjalia, time has a negative effect on the cultural heritage monument. The Extended Council under the Ministry has not met for more than a month, and without the necessary and urgent measures in winter, the churches of the Mother of God and St. George of the monastery complex are exposed.
The ministry said in a statement that another foreign expert, who specializes in climatology, will visit Gelati in the near future before developing an action plan for both the roof and the painting. “Its mission is to study in detail the data of the sensors installed in the main temple of the monastery complex and to provide professional information to the roof architects-restorers. All this is necessary to assess whether the current roof, due to the methodology of its arrangement, has a detrimental effect on the climate in the temple and, consequently, on the wall painting.
History of the reconstruction of a historical monument
The first stage of reconstruction works on the main temple of Gelati Monastery Complex started in 2014 and the dome was closed, and in 2015-2018 the arms of the temple were closed. The works were funded by the US Embassy and conducted by the International Center for the Arts. Many problems with videos of the temple arms, especially the west arm, showing water entering this part of the temple have been repeatedly circulated on social media.
The second phase of the works started in 2018. Currently, the project was funded by the World Bank, and the money received was managed by the Municipal Development Fund. The works at this stage included the roofing of the equestrian church of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, the rehabilitation of the plinth and the drainage system.
As of today, the World Cultural Heritage Site, the main temple of the Gelati Monastery Complex, for the rehabilitation of which 800 thousand USD and more than 1 million GEL have been spent, is under temporary roofing of tin.
The Gelati Monastery Complex, along with the Bagrati Cathedral, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. According to the 2010 decision of the World Heritage Committee, it was included in the list of endangered World Heritage Sites, and in 2017, the 7-year process of returning Gelati to the list of endangered World Heritage Sites was completed.