Emergency Stabilization of the 12th - 13th c.Mural Paintings in the Ikvi Church of St. George (11th. c.)
Funded by: “Cultural Emergency Response” programme of
the Prince Claus Fund.
Implementation period: 2009
About the Site
The 11th century Ikvi Church of the St. George, located in Kaspi Municipality in Shida Kartli region, is among the most important landmarks of Georgia. The cross-domed church built of cut stone slabs bears the donor inscription executed in ancient Georgian Asomtavruli script, which dates the church back to the 11th century. The drum and the facades of the church are adorned with superb stone carved ornaments, which demonstrate the high craftsmanship of Georgian masons and the diversity of ornamental motifs varied from geometric to complex floral patterns.
The importance of the monument is further increased by the 12th-13th century mural painting in the interior of the church. The Ikvi murals are significant not only by their superb quality and style, characteristic for the 11th-13th centuries, but also by its iconographic program, which alongside the main Evangelic scenes like Crucifixion, Transfiguration, Nativity etc., depicts the episodes of the life and martyrdom of St George in the northern cross-arm. The murals of the western cross-arm differ from the rest of the paintings and stylistically belong to 13th century.
The Ikvi paintings, with their superb execution, flowing line and elaborate color combinations stand next to the outstanding examples of mural paintings of the Eastern Christianity. Stylistically characterized by the main features of Byzantine style, they, at the same time, are echoing the local traditions by the laconism of iconographic program and composition structure. Having similarities with other exceptional Georgian monuments, such as Ateni, Pavnisi, Kintsvisi and Timotesubani, Ikvi paintings are valuable for not only Georgian art history but also for the studies of Eastern Christian art.
During the spring and summer 2011 a heavy rains and flood occurred all over the Georgia. This caused a lot of damages in various regions of the country.
The continuous (May –July) heavy rains hit the Kaspi region too. The local population of the region was inflicted by the sever losses both due the washing the houses and floating the rural holdings. The disaster also affected the 11th century Ikvi church.
The most vulnerable components of the Site are the 12th-13th century murals in the interior of the church. Even though the architectural structure of the church has been recently stabilized, the disaster caused loosen and falling of the stones from the drum, opening the access way to rainwater to the interior of the church. The mural paintings, although damaged by the time and required the conservation, were not in direct danger of destruction. But the water infiltration due to the recent damages of the drum and dome made the situation critical. The frescos were suffering from different damages. Amongst these were:
Organizational activities for the start-up of the project had been completed within the first week from the project commence. The project team has been assembled. The working meeting of the project team had been held both in Tbilisi and on site. Onsite works had been started on November 15, 2011.
Preliminary Onsite Works
The materials for the scaffolding and roofing had been purchased and delivered on site. The scaffolding had been constructed to access the upper parts of the structure. The works, as reported, had been stopped due winter months.
Architectural rehabilitation works
- Erection of the scaffoldings on the exterior of the church;
- Rehabilitation of the damaged masonry around the drum
- Preparation/cleaning of the nests of fallen stones on the drum of the church;
- Fixing the fallen stones back to their places;
- Preparation and partial installation of new stones instead of lost ones;
- The old roofing, which was enabling water penetration in the interior has been changed
- The window openings have been glazed with the aim to protect the wall painting from washing out and keep the interior from bird excrements.
Conservation of the Murals in the Interior of the Church The stabilization of mural paintings in the interior included the following:
- The plaster losses were consolidated through the lime mortar filling and hydraulic lime injections;
- Stabilization of the plaster edges with the lime borders
- Injection of the cracks on plaster with lime solution
- Mechanical removal of salts using distilled water, Japanese paper and brush.
- The flecking and powdering paint layer has been treated with Japanese paper and 5% Primal.
- The biological deterioration on the small pieces of the painting has been mechanically removed from the surface
Conservation of the Wall cladding in the interior and the arch of the portal
As it was mentioned above, the erection of scaffoldings in the interior during the conservation works of the church showed out existence of problematic areas in the upper parts of cross arms, where the plaster has long been fallen and close examination of the bare masonry showed that the cohesion of the mortar with stones in the joints is mostly very weak.
The endanger parts of wall in the interior have been treated with special cautiousness. The stones have been cleaned and conserved, while the mortar in the joints between stone has been removed and replaced with new lime/sand mortar, which in turn consolidated the cohesion of the masonry.
The same activities have been accomplished on the masonry of the arch of the portal.