Culture minister: plans for preventive work on Gelati monument before fall weather

Over the recent months the culture ministry has hosted local professionals in meetings to share opinions about the next steps to be taken on the site. Photo via National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation., 13 Aug 2021 - 19:42, Tbilisi,Georgia

Plans are in motion to ensure initial preventive work on Gelati complex, a UNESCO World Heritage monument in Georgia's west, before the onset of precipitation during fall season, Georgia's culture minister Thea Tsulukiani said on Friday.

Tsulukiani announced the intention while speaking in the wake of the most recent developments around the monastery complex - the publication of a UNESCO World Heritage Committee document and reports by working groups studying the site and involving experts from the international body.

The minister said his administration was working to select the professionals to be tasked with carrying out the "initial work on reinforcing [fresco] painting [in the monastery]" before fall, while also devising a monitoring group to oversee work on the frescoes as well as roof construction at the site.

Reports from two groups that worked to study the latest condition of both the roof structure and fresco damage - caused by precipitation and revealed to the public last year - were made public by the ministry this week.

They followed a draft decision on Gelati, released following the 44th meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee last month, that lamented "fragile state of conservation" at the World Heritage Site and calling for urgent action of providing a "more workable solution" for temporary roofing to prevent moisture ingress into the St George's Church and the St Mary Church of the complex.

The reports illustrate the damage caused by prolonged rainwater leaks into the monument due to a botched rehabilitation process that used defective roof tiles to replace the previous roofing on the site over the last few years.

Tsulukiani said professionals in Georgia differed on necessary measures to safeguard Gelati but added the monument was "running out of time" and said the ministry would ensure timely work on the complex for making sure the damaging natural processes were stopped.

Earlier this year the minister said some damage caused to frescoes of Gelati by rainwater leaks would be "irreversible", and called the 2008-2020 rehabilitation work on the monument a "big mistake" and an "experiment" that has proved "damaging" to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.