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Surb Nshan to rise from the ashes2012-01-16 15:42
A fire in Surb Nshan, an Armenian monastery, may strike another blow at the Georgian-Armenian relationship. Echmiadzin has already come out with a harsh letter demanding that the Georgian side make every effort to preserve the two nations' cultural heritage. GTimes correspondent went to the fire scene to look at the fire effects.
Surb Nshan Armenian monastery is situated in the very center of Tbilisi, presenting a magnificent view. However, the architectural monument looks deplorable at a close distance. Of course, it would be very hard to destroy a monastery built in 1701: thick brickwork walls will keep the church for the generations coming. The point is what kind of look one of the most significant Christian shrines in the Caucasus will offer to the descendants.
The monument is in a pitiful state: a dirty yard, crumbling brickwork, walls seamed with cracks. Windows are replaced by rusty metal sheets; garbage is scattered all over together with the frustrated hopes of restoration. The floor of the building is covered with almost decayed scaffolding thrusting against the trees entwined with thick roots of stiff lianas. A huge crack runs across the wall of one of the buildings. It will surely take much pain to restore the monastery.
Indoors, the building looks still gloomier. It is very difficult to make one's way across the floor, with heaps of rubbish blocking the way. Tigran, a local resident who agreed to be our guide, has been working across the church for fifteen years. He says if there were light inside, we could see the remnants of frescos. There was an archive here in Soviet times since 1936. Later it was transferred to another place but a lot of old newspapers and books are still scattered around the floor. Neighbours say there was a big fire in 2002 and all this literary garbage got burnt, having covered the interior with soot.
This time, the fire lasted longer. According to Tigran, the church caught fire on January, 3. Several fire teams came and put the fire down rather quickly. "It looked like burning peat. There was actually no fire but something kept smoking. Fire teams came here six times after their first arrival", - our interlocutor said.
Surb Nshan monastery is supported by four pillars. One of them was brought down by a jet of water during fire suppression. A tragedy could have happened if firemen had not recoiled from the falling pile.
When we came to the monastery, municipal workers were taking away the garbage left after the fire.