Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), a local watchdog, announced on October 20 that it requested the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate probe into the damages to the Gelati Monastery complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, based on Articles 259 and 342 of the Criminal Code, involving damage or destruction of cultural heritage, and neglect of official duty, respectively.
Making the announcement, GYLA Chairman Sulkhan Saladze said the investigation should examine the responsibilities of both, the company carrying out restoration process, as well as of the Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage. Saladze slammed the Agency for neglecting its responsibility to adequately supervise the restoration process of revered 12th century monastery.
The Gelati Monastery, masterpiece of the Golden Era of medieval Georgia located near the western city of Kutaisi, became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. The restoration of the Monastery roof began in 2016, and was finalized in 2019, albeit with major errors, that led to water leaking into the church, causing damages to medieval frescos.
To preserve the paintings, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage issued a permit to the Heritage of Georgia group to construct temporary roofing. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Georgia, non-profit working on heritage conservation issues, said the process of temporary roofing has been extremely protracted and failed to fully protect the monastery wall paintings from damage.
The Agency denied allegations, noting that the temporary roofing project “fully addresses the challenges facing the monastery and ensures the avoidance of water leaking into the monastery.”