REPATRIATION OF FOUR WALL PAINTINGS FROM THE CHURCH OF PANAGIA APSINTHIOTISSA AT SYCHARI AND OTHER CHURCHES IN OCCUPIED CYPRUS, WHICH WERE IN THE POSESSION OF THE NGO WALK OF TRUTH
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that today, 21st January 2019, four wall-painting fragments were handed over to the Cyprus authorities at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus at The Hague. The wall fragments originate from churches in occupied Cyprus. Two fragments come from the Church of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) Apsinthiotissa at Sychari village, one fragment, which has only recently been identified, is from the Church of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) in Assia village and a fourth fragment remains unidentified.
The above-mentioned wall-paintings were violently detached from the above monuments following the Turkish invasion of 1974 and have been in the possession of the NGO Walk of Truth, based in The Hague. Ms. Tasoula Hadjitofi, on behalf of Walk of Truth, handed over the wall-paintings to Ms. Vasiliki Anastassiadou, Minister of Transport, Communications and Works in the presence of Dr. Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou, Director of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities, which is the competent authority of the Republic of Cyprus on these matters, and Ambassador Mr. Elpidoforos Economou. In her speech the Minister stressed that “It is by now a widely accepted notion that cultural heritage is a priceless and an irreplaceable inheritance, not only of each nation, but also of humanity as a whole. The loss, through theft, clandestine excavations and/or illicit trade, of any element forming this common heritage constitutes an impoverishment of the identity and history of all people and infringes upon the fundamental human rights to culture and development.”
Other officials present at the ceremony were Police Inspector Mr. Michalis Gavrielides, Senior Conservator of the Department of Antiquities Ms. Stella Pissaridou and Conservator of the Department of Antiquities Dr. Eleftherios Charalambous. Also, present were the Bishop Porphyrios of Neapolis, Mr. Martin Finkelnberg from the Dutch Police and members of Walk of Truth. The repatriation was made possible through the coordinated efforts of all the competent authorities of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus as mentioned above, as well as the Legal Services and the Department of Customs and Excise and the Church of Cyprus.
The cultural objects will be repatriated to Cyprus on Thursday 24th January 2019 with a direct flight from The Hague. The return of these precious wall-paintings to their country of origin, following the odyssey they have been through, is an extremely important development. When they arrive in Cyprus the wall-paintings will be properly conserved, and like all repatriated cultural objects, they will be placed back in the monuments to which they belong, as soon as this is made possible.
The Department of Antiquities encourages the public to be active in the fight against illicit trafficking and in the efforts made to save, preserve and protect cultural heritage. It should be stressed that the Department of Antiquities, as the competent authority, participates in all the initiatives of the EU and UNESCO concerning the fight against illicit trafficking and the efforts made to enable the repatriation of cultural objects that have been illegally exported from their country of origin. The Department of Antiquities, in collaboration with other competent authorities, continues to systematically pursue the repatriation of Cyprus’ looted cultural heritage.
REPATRIATION OF THE MOSAIC REPRESENTING APOSTLE MARKOS FROM THE OCCUPIED CHURCH OF PANAGIA KANAKARIA IN LYTHRAGKOMI
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that the mosaic of Apostle Markos, which adorned the apse of the occupied church of Panagia Kanakaria in Lythragkomi, Famagusta District, has been repatriated to Cyprus from the Netherlands. The mosaic was located in the Principality of Monaco by the Dutch private detective Arthur Brand, known for tracing major works of art, working with the police authorities of many countries. Information about the mosaic was originally provided to the Cypriot authorities in 2016 by AHEPA, a Greek - American organization in the USA.
The walled mosaics of Panagia Kanakaria, dating back to the 6th century AD., are highly important works of art and among the few remaining early Christian mosaics in the world. The mosaic of Apostle Markos was violently detached and stolen from the church, between 1977-79 by Turkish looter and art dealer Aydin Dikmen, along with the rest of the mosaics depicting the Apostles and other saints. The mosaics were broken down into pieces and found their way in the international art markets.
Pieces of the mosaics, such as the figures of Apostles Luke, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Thomas and Andrew, as well as the upper part of the Virgin Mary and Christ, the hands of the Virgin Mary and the hand of Archangel Gabriel, have been gradually repatriated since 1983, while a few more pieces of the mosaic decoration are still missing.
The mosaic of Apostle Markos was handed over on the 16th November 2018 by Arthur Brand at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in The Hague, in the presence of the Ambassador Mr. Elpidoforos Economou, Mr. Martin Finkelnberg of the Dutch Police and of the team travelling from Cyprus, composed of the Director of the Department of Antiquities Dr. Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou, the Legal Counselor of the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus Mr. Leonidas Georgiou, the Inspector Officer of the Assistant Chief of Police Mr. Michalis Gavrielides and Department of Antiquities' Conservator, specialist in mosaics, Dr. Eleftherios Charalambous. The repatriation was made possible through the coordinated actions of all involved authorities of the State including the Legal Service of the Republic, the Department of Customs and Excise and the Church of Cyprus.
The Department of Antiquities, in cooperation with all responsible authorities and bodies, continues its efforts to repatriate the remaining mosaics from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria, as well as all other cultural treasures that have been illicitly removed from the occupied areas of Cyprus.
Press Release Ministry of Foreign Affairs
At a ceremony which was held yesterday, 29 March 2018 at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Berlin, two archaeological objects, which were illegally exported from Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974, were handed over to the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus in Germany, Mr. Andreas Hadjichrysanthou, by Mr. Gόnter Puhze and Mrs. Micaela Puhze owners of the Galerie Gόnter Puhze.
The first object is a clay figurine of a warrior with shield which dates to the Cypro-Archaic period (7th century BC). The second object is a clay bowl of Red Polished Ware with incised decoration. The bowl dates to the Early Bronze Age (circa 2000 BC).
The Ambassador thanked Mr. and Mrs. Puhze for their gesture, as well as the representatives of the German Government whose contribution to the common efforts of the Embassy and the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus for the return of the objects was decisive.
Moreover, the Ambassador stressed the importance for Cyprus of the return of its cultural treasures which were looted and illegally exported after the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Finally, he underlined that the return of the two objects, contributes to the further strengthening of the excellent bilateral relations between of Cyprus and Germany.
The German government was represented at the ceremony by the deputy Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media Dr. Gόnter Winands. Representatives of the German Foreign Ministry were also present.
REPATRIATION OF ANTIQUITY FROM UK
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that an ancient Cypriot clay ring-vase (kernos - ceremonial vessel), dated to the Protogeometric period (1050-900 BC), has been repatriated to Cyprus from the United Kingdom. The vessel was identified by the Department of Antiquities at a London-based antiquities dealer’s shop, as a result of the Departments’ routine online investigations.
Following a request by the Department of Antiquities and the Cyprus Police, the shop handed over the vessel to the London Metropolitan Police, which in turn, handed it over to the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in London, in October 2016. A Conservator of the Department of Antiquities supervised the packing of the antiquity in London and escorted it to Cyprus on 16 November 2016. The vessel was part of Mr. Christakis Hadjiprodromou’s registered private collection that was kept in his house in Ammochostos (Famagusta) prior to the Turkish invasion in 1974. As a result of the invasion, Mr. Hadjiprodromou’s residence was pillaged, and his collection was looted, its objects scattered around the world. Another antiquity (a clay horse-and-rider of the Cypro-Archaic period, approx. 700 BC) from the same collection was repatriated from London in July 2016.
REPATRIATION OF ANTIQUITY FROM UK
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that an ancient clay figurine has been repatriated to Cyprus from the United Kingdom. The figurine was identified by the Department of Antiquities on the website of a London-based antiquities dealer’s shop.
Following a request by the Department of Antiquities and the Cyprus Police, the shop handed over the figurine to the London Metropolitan Police, which in turn, returned it to the Department of Antiquities in July 2016. The figurine was part of Mr Christakis Hadjiprodromou’s registered private collection that was kept in his house in Ammochostos (Famagusta) prior to the Turkish invasion in 1974. As a result of the invasion, of the Turkish arms, Mr. Hadjiprodromou’s residence was pillaged, and his collection was looted, its objects scattered around the world.
The clay figurine depicts a horse and rider/warrior and dates to the Cypro-Archaic period (approximately 700 BC).
REPATRIATION CEREMONY IN CYPRUS
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Communications and Works announces that on Tuesday 12 November 2013, a ceremony will be organized in the Byzantine Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation, Nicosia to mark the repatriation of the 173 ecclesiastical cultural treasures which were stolen from the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus. It constitutes the largest number of cultural objects ever repatriated in Cyprus and the repatriation was achieved after a long legal battle in the Regional Court of Munich. The 173 byzantine and post-byzantine antiquities that still bear the signs of irreversible damage caused during the process of their detachment from the churches, come from Greek-Cypriot churches and churches of the Maronite community. They are unique examples of ecclesiastical art of Cyprus and will be temporarily exhibited in the Byzantine Museum until the day of their return to the places where they belong.
REPATRIATION CEREMONY IN MUNICH
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Communications and Works announces that on Tuesday 16 July 2013 a ceremony was organized to mark the extremely important decision taken by the Regional Court of Munich on the 18th of March, 2013 that follows the decision of the District Court of Munich delivered on September 2010 for the repatriation of cultural treasures, which were stolen from the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus.
The ceremony involved the symbolic return of 173 objects of ecclesiastical art, which were stolen from churches in the occupied part of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974 and exported illegally. It took place in the Bavarian Police Department in Munich and was attended and addressed by the Minister of Justice of Bavaria, Beate Merk, the President of the Bavarian Police Department Dr Peter Dathe, the First Criminal Commissioner Dr Franz Weber, the Bishop of Neapolis Porfyrios on behalf of the Church of Cyprus and, Dr. Despo Pilides, Acting Director, on behalf of the Department of Antiquities. A representative of the Embassy of Cyprus in Berlin, as well as other distinguished guests and the Bavarian press were also present. The icon of St Basil from the church of Panagia Galaktoforousa at Palaikythro was presented to the Cypriot representatives, while another five objects were exhibited for symbolic reasons.
Even though restored so as to be able to travel to Cyprus, the signs of violent detachment and bad handling of the objects by the looters were evident. The exhibited objects comprised the wall mosaic fragment of St Thomas from Panagia Kanakaria at Lythrangomi, two fragments of the wall-painting of the Last Judgment from the church of Antifonitis at Kalograia, the icon of Christ from the church of Agios Theodoros, Karpasia, and the icon of Virgin Mary portraying Christ, Agios Ioannis Eleimon, and the portraits of the founders from the church of Agios Ioannis Chrysostomos at Koutsoventis.
This repatriation, which will take place in the near future, concerns the largest in number of cultural goods restitution case that the Republic of Cyprus has ever experienced. Also important was the significance attached to the event by the Bavarian press and mass media.