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../Cultural Heritage Preservation

(9th-10th c) of the NIKOZI MONASTERY COMPLEX (5th-18th c)

Funded by: “Cultural Emergency Response” programme of the Prince Claus Fund.
Implementation period: 2009

About the Site

Nikozi is one of the most ancient Episcopal sees in the Kartli region. According to historical sources Nikozi Cathededral and its Episcopal See were founded by King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century, on the site of a Zoroastrian temple. Nikosi is the burial place of the Persian martyr St. Razden, who, during Vakhtang’s reign, adopted Christianity and was tortured by Persians. According to Vakhushti Bagrationi, the Nikozi diocese included the Caucasian range, the Ksani hills and the upper part of Racha. The founding of a diocese based on Nikozi aimed both at displacing Zoroastrianism, which was widespread in the region, and also at spreading the Christianity in the mountainous hinterlands of Kartli. The Nikozi Episcopal see was abolished in about 1811. 

The Nikozi Monastery includes the main Cathedral of “Gvtaeba” (5th-16th c), the belfry, the 9th- to 10th-century two-storied Episcopal palace and the surrounding wall.

The Episcopal Palace is one of the most important samples of the palace architecture survived from the late medieval period. The rectangle, two-storey structured palace is built of coble stones and bricks. Near the palace there was the residence of the monastery.  In 2007 the palace was restored with financial support of Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports of Georgia.; August 10, 2009 the Palace was directly bombed by Russian Aggressions.

Project Background

In August 7-11th 2008 Georgian Historical territories of Shida (inner) Kartli, (during the period of the Soviet Union which was framed within the boundaries of the South Ossetian Autonomous District administrative frontiers), was annexed and bombed by Russian Troops. Nikozi monastery complex, located in the Laikhvi River gorge, 1.2 miles (2 km) from Tskhinvali suffered badly from this conflict. In particular the Episcopal Palace, which is included in the Nikozi monastery complex, one of the most important Historical Monuments and Episcopal Chair of nowadays, was directly bombed on the 10th August; The fire born in the result of the dropped shells destroyed the roofing, which was newly restored by the Georgian Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports and the interior of the palace. Moreover, the direct bombing completely destroyed the living part of the monastery on the south of the palace: the monk cells, refectory, archive, library and other secondary structures belonging to the monastery were burnt down.

Project Activities

The projectaimed to conduct the emergency works for the prevention of further damage and to insure the stability of the structure for further conservation activities. The existing situation needed the immediate response to prevent the irreversible deterioration of the monument.
Preliminary onsite works - The territory and the interior of the Episcopal Palace had been cleaned out from the burnt remains and garbage and prepared for the further works. The scaffolding on the North facade of the structure had been constructed to access the upper parts of the structure
Roofing - As the Episcopal Palace was totally missing the roof and a further water ingress badly affected the structure; the set up of temporary roofing had been drawn as the first-aid emergency work. The wooden framework for the roofing had been prepared and constructed; A framework has been planked and the whole wooden structure had been treated with the antiseptic solution and covered by the hydro isolating material. Finally the planked wooden framework has been covered by the ceramic tiles, which are the traditional way of roofing for Georgia.  The tin plate gutters have been installed on the roofing to ensure the carrying over the rainwater.
Consolidation and stabilization of architectural structure - The facades had been cleaned out from the remains of burnt wooden constructions the mortises of balconies have been cleaned out from residues of burnt wood); The loosened and damaged stones and bricks of facades had been removed and replaced. The brickwork at window openings and doorways and been rehabilitated. The arch of central doorway and its columns had been restored. The temporary upper partition between 2nd floor and attic had been constructed. The balconies on the north and east facades had been rehabilitated. The interior of the structure had been cleaned from the burnt remains and extra ground filling the cellar and the damaged walls of cellar had been rehabilitated. During this ground works had been revealed some archaeological findings. The tunnel from the interior to the palace yard, the wine cellar and wine vessels had been found. Also had been revealed the number of ceramic vessels’ fragments widely spread in 12th-13th c.. The brief archaeological report follows; the excavations should be continued.

Archeological findings - The excavated materials mostly consist of fragments of high quality ceramic jugs, saucers etc. The painted and glazed ones are very remarkable. These materials have parallels in findings from different sites (Tbilisi, Jinvali, Rustavi, Mtskheta, Dmanisi etc.) characterizing urban way of living and dated by 12th 13th c.  Archaeological study is not completed yet, excavations should be continued.

Project Results

The implementation of the project “Emergency Stabilization works on the Nikozi Episcopal palace ensured the stabilization of the structure of the building and eluding the further deterioration of the monument; The project prepared the ground for the further rehabilitation of the palace itself as well as the whole monastery. Been the first International project implemented in Nikozi, it also served as a factor for drawing attention of local authorities and public to the problems of Monastery. Namely, during the project had been elaborated the draft master plan for the development of the Monastery complex as well as the plan of the rehabilitation of the palace. Also should be noted that the National Agency of Cultural Heritage Protection of Georgia allocated approx. 20 000 Euros for the firs needs of rehabilitation of monastery complex as well as completion of archaeological excavations. The fundraising for the rehabilitation of Episcopal palace and whole monastery is in process.


The programme in progress since 1996





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