Located some 25 some from Tbilisi, Pitareti Monastery sits in a secluded landscape surrounded by mountains. The church, built between 1216 and 1222, presents a prime example of medieval Georgian domed ecclesiastical architecture. A preeminent monastery during the seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries, Pitareti stood abandoned for 250 years, and suffered major structural damage from an earthquake in 1988, which put the buildings and the church’s important fifteenth-century murals at risk of collapse.
1996 World Monuments Watch
Inclusion of the site in the 1996 Watch generated considerable publicity for the monastery and its precarious state. WMF secured funding through the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1996 for emergency repairs to the buildings, which was heralded in Georgia as the first international funding for cultural heritage in the newly independent country. The Georgian Restoration Institute, nominators of the site to the Watch, oversaw a year-long project that included the reinforcement of foundations and the dome drum, removal of vegetation from masonry, repair of damaged stones, infill of cracks, and repair of the hand-hewn stone tile roof. A second award in 1998 supported the conservation of the bell-tower and planning for the protection and reconstruction of the historic environs, landscape, and rural resettlement of Pitareti, abandoned due to political upheaval in the 1990s. To this end, the Pitareti Revival Foundation was initiated in 1997 to bring together preservation professionals, local and state government, and private organizations as patrons of the complex and its surroundings, promoting its protection and maintenance.
The Pitareti Church is an outstanding example of medieval domed architecture in Georgia, the intricate details on the façade setting it apart from other churches in the region. The monastery’s inclusion on the World Monuments Watch and the Kress Foundation award had a far-reaching impact on preservation practice in Georgia. The multifaceted success of the Pitareti project in generating interest in historic preservation planning and contemporary preservation technology testifies to the extraordinary leadership and determination of ICOMOS/Georgia and the Georgian Restoration Institute. Moreover, in recent years, after over 260 years of abandonment, monastic life returned to Pitareti, as several monks now reside in the complex.