The European Investment Bank Institute and Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organisation in Europe, have published a technical and financial report to save the David Gareji monasteries and hermitages in Eastern Georgia which are among the most important religious sites of the Black Sea-Caspian Sea Basin and listed among The 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2018.
Comprised of 22 rock-hewn monasteries and more than 5,000 sanctuaries and cave-cells, the Gareji monasteries are outstanding due to their unique rock and built architecture as well as to the significant number of preserved mural paintings, ranging in date from the 8th- to 18th centuries. Still an active monastery centre with daily services, the site is threatened by natural causes – the soft and porous nature of the limestone rocks in which the monasteries were hewn is liable to crumble when exposed to cycles of heat and cold- and by unlawful practices such as taking souvenirs and graffiti.
The sheer size of the site makes it difficult to control but the EIBI experts recommended some actions to at least slow down further degradation. This includes prioritising the sites that are at the greatest risk, assessing the structural stability of each cave site through geo- structural analysis, guaranteeing safe access for the workers, establishing an overall action plan and command structure and building a well-rounded visitor centre and museum.
The EIB Institute facilitates the transfer of know-how and experience between different partners and countries in the heritage conservation field. It cooperates with Europa Nostra to identify those under acute danger of neglect or destruction. This innovative cooperation mixes the cultural expertise and lobbying work of Europa Nostra with the technical appraisal and rescue planning skills of the EIB whose experts carry out on-site missions and produce technical reports on the viability and phasing of the project recuperation as well as on the funding options.
The missions to the other European heritage sites listed in 2018 will be held by the end of 2018 / beginning of 2019. The technical and financial reports will be released a couple of months after the missions.