A construction permit to build a residential building in close vicinity to a damaged Armenian church in Tbilisi was issued illegally, according to a new study by Georgian rights group the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI).
A three-storey house is currently being built next to the 18th century Shamkoretsots Surb Astvatsatsin Church, or Church of the Red Gospel, also referred to as Karmir Avetaran. The church is located in Tbilisi’s historically majority-Armenian Avlabari district.
The church was damaged and the dome collapsed after an earthquake in 1989, and has not been repaired since, despite being labeled a cultural heritage site by the Ministry of Culture in 2007. According to TDI, the church is in imminent danger of collapse.
A building permit was issued to the company Fellowship Isani-18 after Tbilisi’s Architecture Service sent the building’s construction plan to the Ministry of Culture, which gave it the green light to go ahead.
The house will obstruct the view of the east wing of the church.
According to the TDI, when they accepted the project, the ministry’s Cultural Heritage Department disregarded the Law on Cultural Heritage in not paying attention to the protection of all areas of the church.
Liberali reported that according to the building plans, the distance between the cadastral border of the building and the church will range from just 3.50–4.70 metres. This is in contradiction to Georgia’s Law on Cultural Heritage, which mandates that the distance between any new building and a historical monument must be at least twice the height of the monument.
According to TDI, there are five inactive churches in Tbilisi disputed between the Armenian Apostolic and the Georgian Orthodox churches, including Shamkoretsots, while another is situated in Akhaltsikhe Municipality, in southern Georgia.