Bagrati cathedral in Kutaisi, Georgia. (Unesco.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The Culture Ministry in Georgia claims that UNESCO has decided to take Bagrati Cathedral off the World Heritage List. But UNESCO says it is only a question of modifying the boundaries of the site.

Bagrati Cathedral, which is located in Georgia’s second largest city Kutaisi, was built between 957 and 1014.

In 1994, UNESCO placed Bagrati Cathedral on its list of world heritage. In 2010 the building was also placed on the list of endangered world heritage, because the previous government was planning extensive restoration work which UNESCO believed would endanger the authenticity of the site. The building was partly destroyed by the Ottomans in 1692.

But the restoration work went ahead and received the international Domus Restoration and Conservation award.

At its 37th session now underway in Thailand, UNESCO’s World Heritage Commission apparently discussed the Bagrati issue, but there are conflicting reports about what they decided.

On the one hand, Georgia’s Culture Ministry claims that the commission decided to remove Bagrati from the World Heritage List after a grace period of one year.

Deputy Culture Minister Marine Mazandari said this is done in order to make a smooth transition for the Gelati Monastery to be included on the list, which by no means is certain to be the result. Had UNESCO removed Bagrati immediately, then there Gelati would also be taken off the list, as the two structures are part of the same complex.

“Bagrati and Gelati are two components of one nomination. We were given the opportunity to replace Bagrati by Gelati and it will be presented independently,” Interpressnews quotes her saying.

A special commission will be created in order to work on confirming significant values of Gelati Monastery, which was also built in Kutaisi in 1106.

“They are concerned about a Bagrati precedent and it is felt in their conversations,” Mazandari says. “They also speak of Gelati very carefully and asked us to make a good argument.”

But according to Roni Amelan in UNESCO’s Press Service, Bagrati will not be removed from the World Heritage List. “But there has been a request for a modification of the boundaries of the site,” he told DF Watch via email. Mr Amelan did not immediately respond to a follow-up question to clarify what this meant.

He told us that the full text of the decision will be available after Wednesday when the World Heritage Committee will review amendments to decisions and adopt them formally.