That's according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), whose World Heritage Committee is holding its annual session this week in Brazil. The committee maintains a catalog of nearly 900 natural and cultural sites of "outstanding universal value," all of which must maintain strict standards of preservation to retain UNESCO assistance and funding.
In January 2008, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the Georgian Orthodox Church had initiated a plan, involving structural modifications, to restore the initial religious use of the cathedral and monastery. The project went against previous UNESCO recommendations that leaving the site as a ruin would better maintain its authenticity. Today, the committee called for an immediate halt to the project.
The Bagrati Cathedral, named after Bagrat III, the first king of united Georgia, dates to the late 10th century. The painting-lined Gelati Monastery, whose main buildings date from the 12th to the 17th centuries, was a center of cultural and intellectual life in medieval Georgia. They now join the historic churches of Mtskheta as Georgian sites on the list of threatened sites.
-- Richard Solash