TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili has awarded the architects behind the rehabilitation of Bagrati Cathedral the Medal of Excellence shortly after the cathedral rehabilitation was awarded the international prize Domus Restoration and Conservation.

The award ceremony took place on Monday, and besides architects Andrea Bruno and Ivane Gremelashvili, the president also thanked Nika Rurua, who was Minister of Culture in the previous government, and Nikoloz Vacheishvili, who was chair of the National Agency for Heritage Protection.

Bagrati cathedral in Kutaisi was built sometime between 975-1014, and was destroyed in 1692 by the Ottomans, according to historic sources.

The president said the restoration of Bagrati ‘has been a long-time dream of the Georgian people.’

He said it is an example of what it means when politics is ‘unreasonably’ involved in national and cultural issues.

“Someone somewhere heard that there would be an elevator in Bagrati and until today, even though there is no elevator there, they say there is an elevator in the cathedral,” he said. “Primitive criticism has destroyed many things.”

Many criticized rehabilitation of the Cathedral and until now accuse Saakashvili’s government for having destroyed the authenticity of the historical monument.

The president said that archeological work revealed that the cathedral really had a green dome in the past. Many have criticized the color of the dome.

In 1994, Bagrati cathedral was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, but in 2010, the World Heritage Committee placed the cathedral on its list of endangered world heritage, as rehabilitation work started violating the authenticity of the building.

The status of Bagrati is still under review. It will be defined at future sessions of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).