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IKORTA CHURCH OF THE ARCHANGEL
Zemo Artsevi Village, Georgia
According to lapidary inscriptions on its exterior walls, King George III of Georgia commissioned the construction Ikorta Church in 1172. It was used as a burial place for the dukes of Ksani, who contributed funds for the church’s construction. Continuous monumental arches form the elaborate exterior of the church, and the eastern façade features a monumental cross embellished with shafts and rhombs. It ceased to be an active place of worship in the nineteenth century.
In 1925, Ikorta Church of the Archangel was listed as an architectural monument of national significance. Restoration efforts focusing on the reinforcement of the historic sanctuary took place during the 1960s and 1970s. A severe earthquake in 1991 caused extensive damage to the already endangered church, with the richly decorated drum collapsing into the nave and seriously damaging the roof and other sections of the building. Plans to restore the church were developed quickly, but the project was soon abandoned due to political conflicts and economic difficulties.
HOW WE HELPED
Following its abandonment in the nineteenth century, the church steadily deteriorated. Periodic seismic activity continually weakened the structure and water penetration damaged the interior. These problems were exacerbated by inadequate maintenance as well as unsuccessful conservation efforts. The 1991 earthquake destroyed most of the drum of the dome, including many of the ancient murals that lined its interior, and compromising other parts of the building and leaving the entire structure in a precarious state.
In 1999, preliminary research, recording, and conservation planning began at Ikorta, following years of delays. The following year, the church was listed on the 2000 World Monuments Watch, an action that contributed greatly to the recognition of the site on an international level, helping attract funding for preservation efforts. The increased funding allowed for work to begin on reinforcing the main body of the church in. WMF supported a comprehensive project for the restoration and reinforcement of the church dome and drum, which was the final stage of conservation work at Ikorta, completed in 2003.
WHY IT MATTERS
The church, an excellent example of a medieval Georgian dome church, is a significant cultural and religious center in the country. The lavish decorative program of the church combined elements of eleventh-century Georgian aesthetics with early features of the new stage of artistic development that took place during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the region. The funding provided by WMF and other international organizations allowed for high standards of conservation work, which preserved the historic authenticity of the structure. The successful restoration of the church is a model for future restoration projects in Georgia.