Public Defender’s Initial Assessment of Gelati Developments

The right to care for cultural heritage is one of the basic rights enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia and it is the constitutional obligation of the Public Defender of Georgia to oversee the protection of this right. Given the particularly high public interest, the Public Defender decided to provide the public with an initial assessment of the events developed around the Gelati Cathedral.

As it is known to the public, during the rehabilitation of Gelati, the tiles used for the roof were damaged and water started to leak in the cathedral, which, according to experts, continues to damage the unique frescoes of the cathedral.

In this regard, the Public Defender’s Office held meetings with experts, observed the situation on the ground and communicated with the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation several times.

As a result of the examination of the case, the Public Defender identified the following problems:

  • Although the monument had already been damaged in early 2020, the process of making a new, temporary roof started almost 10 months late;
  • In just a few weeks after making the temporary roof, it was reported that the roof was damaged.[1] This indicates the ineffective planning and supervision of the works by the responsible agency;
  • A systemic problem was also identified during the study of the issue. In particular, the current legislation does not provide for the obligation to evaluate the quality of works performed during the rehabilitation of cultural heritage monuments by issuing an expert report after each phase of the works. This poses a great threat to the process of proper management of the rehabilitation of cultural heritage monuments.

At this stage, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LEPL) has planned a number of rehabilitation measures in Gelati. In this regard, the Public Defender of Georgia is addressing the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation with a recommendation:

  • To carry out the planned works in such a way as not to interfere with efforts aimed at determining the exact causes of the damage, in order to avoid irreversible damage to Gelati;
  • To ensure the involvement of qualified, independent international/local experts in establishing the causes of the deficiencies identified, as well as in planning the future activities;
  • Systematically provide the public with complete information on existing problems and future plans.

The Public Defender’s Office will continue to monitor the issue within its constitutional mandate and will provide further assessments to the public.

© Photo By Marcin Konsek/Wikimedia Commons

[1] Information available at: <> {Last accessed on 10.02.21}.

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