News > Georgian Armenians > Armenian Church Saint Gevorg of Mughni collapsed in Tbilisi
Azad-Hye and Combined Sources
A major section of a 14th century Armenian church Saint Gevorg of Mughni, including the dome and a wall, collapsed on Abo Tbileli street, Sololaki District, in the old part of the Georgian capital Tbilisi on 19 November 2009. The incident occurred late at night.
The collapse came as a result of years of neglect by the Georgian authorities to repair the historic church. Under Georgian law, the Armenian Apostolic Diocese of Georgia has no legal status and thus all Armenian churches are placed under the jurisdiction of the Georgian Church.
The church which had been closed since the early 1990s was in a state of rapid deterioration. Recent rains further exacerbated the damage to the church. St. Gevorg of Mughni is one of the five churches for which St. Echmiadzin addressed a number of letters to the Georgian Patriarch and authorities to return it to the Armenian Apostolic Diocese of Georgia.
"The Georgian Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports should bear the responsibility. All this creates an impression that by failing to solve the issue of returning the churches to the Armenian Diocese, the Georgian Patriarchate and authorities do not pay proper attention to the preservation of Armenian churches", the Armenian Apostolic Diocese of Georgia said in a statement.
"The collapse of the Saint Gevorg of Mughni church in Tbilisi is the result of the indifference of the Georgian government", historian Samvel Karapetyan stated. "For the last 20 years the church has been left without care or protection, the walls were cracked and the danger of collapse was imminent, and yet the Georgian authorities did not do anything to stop the danger", he added.
The Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of All Armenians in Saint Etchmiadzin) accused Georgian authorities of indifference to Armenian sacred places in the country (see statement below). It called on the Georgian leadership and Georgian Orthodox Church to grant a legal status to the Armenian Church and preserve Armenians' sacred places.
According to the Georgian media, the Government of Georgia will study the reasons of the collapse of the Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church. The Georgian Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports has established a group comprised of architects, artists and other specialists to collect data about the collapsed church. "Further steps will be determined afterwards," said Natia Maruchashvili, Spokesperson for the Georgian Ministry, who took the opportunity to declare that the Georgian government has reconstructed about 500 historical and cultural monuments in Georgia over the past five years since the Rose Revolution (apparently not the Armenian churches). According to the Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, the group of experts already examined the church's dome and decided to start restoration works immediately.
ARF (Dashnaktsutyun) declared that Georgia's conduct over the issue of the collapsed Armenian church and the other Armenian monuments in Georgia is impermissible and unacceptable for a civilized and Christian country. ARF member Vahan Hovhannisyan said in a press conference that only international pressure on Georgia can work here and this is what ARF intends to do.
Armenia's Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosyan expressed deep concern over the collapse of the church and requested from her Georgian counterpart clarification on what steps were being taken. The Georgian Minister assured that his ministry has taken the necessary steps toward the reconstruction of the church, inviting Armenian architects to help restore it. A restoration architect will depart for Tbilisi to participate in the works. The newly appointed Ambassador of Georgia to Armenia Grigor Tabatadze said that the reconstruction of the church would be completed within a year.
On 24 November 2009, a protest was organized in front of the Georgian Embassy in Yerevan against the destruction of Armenian churches in Georgia. One of the organizers of the protest was the Student Council of Yerevan State University. Students from Yerevan State Economic University and Yerevan State Pedagogical University also joined the protest, which demanded a meeting with the Georgian ambassador. The ambassador refused to meet with the protestors.
The destruction of this historical monument out of sheer negligence and indifference is a big lose for both the Armenian heritage and the Republic of Georgia. In a city where many modern Georgian churches are erected, it is strange to see how the authorities have neglected the culture of a neighboring Christian nation. At least they could have returned the church to the authority of the Armenian Apostolic Diocese of Georgia and give the Armenians the chance to restore their monument.
Armenians played a central role in the cultural and economic life in Tbilisi since Medieval times and it would be a gesture of acknowledgment of this role to let the descendants of this vital community to take care of the ancestral heritage. A democratic Georgia should be able to provide this basic right.
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Information Services
Address: Vagharshapat, Republic of Armenia
Contact: Rev. Fr. Ktrij Devejian
November 23, 2009
Supreme Spiritual Council Statement on collapse of St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church in Georgia
On Friday, November 20, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided during a meeting of the Supreme Spiritual Council in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Discussed during the meeting was the collapse of the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church in the Diocese of Georgia. At the end of the meeting, the following statement was released:
The Supreme Spiritual Council regrets to confirm that the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church (built in 1356) in Tbilisi, Georgia, has collapsed.
The Supreme Spiritual Council regretfully states that years of effort on the part of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the authorities of the Republic of Armenia, to regulate the legal standing of the Armenian Diocese of Georgia and secure the return of Armenian churches, through dialogue with the authorities of the Republic of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church, were unsuccessful. The collapse of the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church is only one of the consequences of the unwarranted delays exhibited by the Georgian side in the handling of the aforementioned issues. The authorities of the Republic of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church are wholly responsible for the collapse of the church.
The indifference exhibited by the Georgian state toward the preservation of Armenian holy sites does not correspond in any way with: 1) the establishment of good neighborly relations, 2) fidelity to universal human values, 3) respect for the rights of ethnic minorities, 4) the constant statements made by the Georgian state regarding the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of their ethnic minorities, and 5) the Georgian state’s acceptance of responsibilities before the international community.
The Supreme Spiritual Council calls on the authorities of the Republic of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church to immediately implement steps to grant legal status to the Armenian Diocese of Georgia and to return the Armenian churches in Georgia to the Armenian Diocese of Georgia for the normal functioning of national-ecclesiastical life for the Georgian-Armenian community and the safe preservation of Armenian holy sites.