Gelati Monastery and Academy

World Monuments Watch
Kutaisi, Georgia

2008 World Monuments Watch

The architectural complex of the Gelati Monastery and Academy in central Georgia is one of the country's most treasured religious and cultural landmarks. King David the Builder began constructing the monastery and academy in 1106 as a grand tribute to his victory over the Turks. The academy was one of the first institutions of higher education founded in the Middle Ages, and became a principal cultural center in Georgia. Although the academy ceased to function in the late Middle Ages—after which it was converted into a refectory—the monastery remains in use. The site is renowned for its collection of twelfth- to nineteenth-century mosaics, wall paintings, enamels, and metalwork. In 1994, Gelati was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2006 was included on the list of Unmovable Monuments of Georgian Cultural Heritage. As a result of political and economic unrest in Georgia in recent years, the Gelati Monastery and Academy have suffered from neglect, along with many other historic sites. The Church of the Virgin at Gelati has a leaky roof, and suffers from problems caused by climate fluctuation and water infiltration. These problems have caused damage to the structure and the frescoes, and biological agents have caused plaster and paint layers to crack, powder, and detach from the walls. The twelfth- to fourteenth-century frescoes in the narthex now have a pink discoloration caused by changes in the microclimate. Lack of funds and professional expertise has hampered the preservation of this world-renowned site. Proper restoration of the Gelati Monastery and Academy could set an example for the numerous other churches in the region that are also in dire need of care. 

In 2010, Gelati Monastery was inscribed in UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger, and removed in 2017. 


Last updated: August 2017.

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