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Transmission

Cathedral Restoration Causes Headache For Georgian President

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II (right) blesses Mikheil Saakashvili (center) in the 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral after the latter's reelection as president in 2008.
Georgian Patriarch Ilia II (right) blesses Mikheil Saakashvili (center) in the 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral after the latter's reelection as president in 2008.
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Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II has ordered the suspension of restoration work at the world-renowned Bagrati Cathedral.

The announcement on June 18 by Georgia's State Agency for National Heritage Preservation could have major political repercussions for President Mikheil Saakashvili, who had strongly backed the reconstruction project.

The 11th-century cathedral, which is currently cloaked in scaffolding, is widely regarded as a masterpiece of medieval Georgian architecture.

It has been listed as a World Heritage site by the United Nations' scientific and cultural organization UNESCO.

For some time, however, UNESCO officials have been voicing concern about the planned restoration of the cathedral in Georgia's second city, Kutaisi, saying the work risks distorting the structure's original look.

A report the organization published in 2011 warned that the interventions that had been carried out at the cathedral thus far were "almost irreversible."

RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported last week that UNESCO had even warned that the monument is in very real danger of being removed from its list of World Heritage sites if the restoration continues.

Halting work on the cathedral is likely to be a major disappointment to Saakashvili, who had called for the restoration to be completed by October.

If that deadline had been met, it would presumably have given the president a timely boost ahead of parliamentary elections that are scheduled in the same month.

Named after Bagrat III, the first king of a unified Georgia, the ancient cathedral is seen as a symbol of the unity of the Georgian state, an idea that still resonates strongly in the Caucasus country, which has two breakaway provinces under the control of separatist rebels.

By restoring Bagrati Cathedral, it's possible that Saakashvili had hoped to strike a chord with many Georgians who also wish to see the country's traditional borders restored as well.

Provided work eventually resumes on the cathedral, the Georgian leader will now have to wait for presidential elections next year to try and reap the political capital that is to be gained from renovating one of the country's most potent symbols.

Then again, if UNESCO decides to definitively remove the cathedral from its World Heritage List at a meeting in St. Petersburg on June 24, Saakashvili's strong backing for the Bagrati restoration project could have political ramifications that are the opposite to what he intended.
 
Written by Coilin O'Connor with contributions from RFE/RL correspondent Merkhat Sharipzhanov and RFE/RL's Georgian Service


PHOTO GALLERY: Georgia's Bagrati Cathedral

  • Located in the country's second city, Kutaisi, and named after a medieval Georgian king, the ancient Bagrati Cathedral is one of Georgia's most potent national symbols. 
  • The cathedral had been in a state of disrepair for a number of years. This is how it looked in 1981. 
  • Such is the symbolic significance of Bagrati Cathedral, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) arranged a special ceremony there to bless him as head of state after his inauguration in 2008.
  • The cathedral had effectively been in ruins before the latest restoration work began in 2009. 
  • The monument is currently cloaked in scaffolding as controversial restoration work is carried out.
  • An artist's impression of how the cathedral is supposed to look once a controversial restoration is completed, based on the work of architect Ivane Gremelashvili. 

 

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by: Arab the handsome from: Only women enter desert
June 20, 2012 11:14
There is no son or wife of God. God is one. He has no co-partner. Old barbarians were believe that killing a man, or woman, or an animal, will forgive their sins. Pagans were change their names, now they call themselves as Christians. Christ = the self suicided son of God. Who orders to him, to kill himself ? İs God ? İf a God who do not mercy for his son, is this God mercy for that humen who killed his son ? You Georgians, you have brains, ask this questions yourselves. But not to "salaried" pastors.
In Response

by: Mamuka
June 20, 2012 14:03
I suppose the Ottoman invaders felt the same way when they destroyed the cathedral hundreds of years ago.
In Response

by: Holy red beard Arab from: Women heaven desert
June 21, 2012 07:58
if you are a honest man, you must stop the parasites who sell religion to humen race.

Christianism is a feodal religion. Feodal lords used Christianity and churchs to save their thrones.

You can pay a Christian church, to let forgive your sins, church will accept money and will forgive you İN THE NAME OF GOD. How a man believe can this ?

You Georgians, leave those Russian official state religion, Orthodoxism. İ give you promise, we will never laugh to you that you were believe old pagan story = God married with a woman, and his son killed himself for dirty humen :) we will forget your past. You will laugh and ask yourselves "İf god must kill someone, why did he killed his son ? he can kill all guilty humen, and can create believers, as he did over and over at humen history. But god's son killed himself, he ran away, he left good men alone, he did not stay and fight... This pagan gods are surely cowards :))))"

Believe there is only one God. And he never need churchs, patriarchs or pastors. Religion is the best trade, and Churchs know this since 2000 years.

by: John Harduny from: Reston, VA, USA
June 21, 2012 15:11
The restoration of the cathedral is a noble and timely endeavor by the Georgian government. The Cathedral is a classical example of unique elements of Georgian architecture, which overall was heavily influenced by Armenian architectural designs. I hope the restoration will be carried out by well qualified professionals and not by government-connected people with questionable reputation. The cathedral also symbolizes the time when Armenians and Georgians had a much closer relationship which benefited both nations.
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 21, 2012 20:12
Georgians are Caucasians, Armenians are Phrygians who came from East Europe to Anatolia.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
June 21, 2012 23:51
right, even the current capital of rump republic of Saakashvillis used to be Armenian city called Tifflis. Stalin (who was "republic of Georgian") took Tiflis from Armenia and gave it to "republic of Georgia", expelling most of Armenian population. Then he renamed the city to "Tbilisi" in 1936.
In Response

by: john
June 26, 2012 21:52
My Lord, never heard such a nonsense before, nice try Ara!
In Response

by: John Harduny from: Reston, VA, USA
July 09, 2012 15:36
Complete nonsense, I agree. Someone tried to discredit Armenians.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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