The messenger logo

Bagrati Cathedral at the edge of losing its status

By Messenger staff
Thursday, January 10
Bagrati Cathedral may be removed from the list of monuments protected by UNESCO. The Georgian Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Guram Odisharia said after a meeting with the Director of UNESCO, Francesco Bandarini, that restoration sometimes puts the particular monument under the threat of losing UNESCO’s protection. Odisharia said that the reconstruction of monuments is a very careful issue because returning of their functions may put them under threat.

Although the committee session discussing Bagrati’s fate is scheduled on February 1, there are some signs that Bagrati may be removed from the world heritage list.

According to Deputy Minister of Culture Marina Mizandari, both the Georgian government and UNESCO will try to deal with the problem. Mizandari said it is possible to present the Cathedral in a different way by placing an emphasis on the importance of Gelati Cathedral. “Bagrati will become its companion...because today’s Bagrati does not coincide with the standards of UNESCO and it cannot thus remain on the list,” explained Mizandari.

The newly refurbished Bagrati was opened in September, 2012. However, after renovation, the criteria that had made it a UNESCO protected monument were broken.

However, Nikoloz Vacheishvili Director of the National Agency of Cultural Heritage Protection said the Georgian people did not want to have only ruins from Bagrati. He said Bagrati and Gelati were listed together by mistake, while now these two cathedrals will have separate nominations.

“Bagrati will be mentioned in the list of historical monuments,” he said.

Vacheishvili thinks that by reconstructing Bagrati Cathedral, many Georgian’s dreams have been fulfilled. He said all the world’s leading experts agree with the idea that this kind of reconstruction is a breakthrough. “We should not worry about removing a tiny clause,” Vacheishvili said, confident that the new project will be a good example of the preservation of historical monuments not on the national but also on the international level.

Member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Manana Suramelashvili, said experts used to discuss the possibility of taking Bagrati off the list of protected monuments before, as the restoration activities did not match with the fundamental principles of monument protection. Thus, she said it was natural that Bagrati would face the danger being removed from the list.

“As Gelati and Bagrati were nominated in the same category, Gelati will now be nominated separately... I think Bagrati’s case will end with an unpleasant consequence for us,” she said, foreseeing that the cathedral will be removed from the list at the UNESCO Committee session in February, 2013. Suramelashvili said the Georgian side should present Gelati in a timely manner to avoid a similar situation.

According to Suramelashvili experts possessing varying opinions have never had the opportunity to argue over the issue before. She said the new Ministry of Culture is now trying to familiarize with the mistakes and find a solution.