Handing over of Cypriot antiquity at the High Commission
of the Republic of Cyprus in the United Kingdom
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that on the 21st August 2020 a Cypriot antiquity was handed over to the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in London Mr. Andreas Kakouris by DC Ray Swan of the London Metropolitan Police. The antiquity, which was looted and illegally exported from Cyprus following the Turkish invasion of 1974, was handed over to the London Metropolitan Police by Mr. Costas Paraskevaides, the owner of ArtAncient, a London-based antiquities shop. The said antiquity is a Bichrome ware miniature clay jar (approx. 6 cm high) dating to the Cypro-Archaic I period (750 – 600 BC).
The Department of Antiquities, the Office for Combating Illegal Possession and Trafficking of Antiquities of the Cyprus Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wish to thank Mr. Paraskevaides for handing over the antiquity and the London Metropolitan Police for its valuable contribution and collaboration with the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus. The physical repatriation of the antiquity will take place in the near future.
Every repatriation of a stole and illegally exported cultural object is of utmost importance on many levels, since each and every such object represents a part of a country’s history and identity. For the Cyprus authorities, the identification and repatriation of stolen cultural objects is an extremely high priority, bearing in mind that the island has sadly suffered large-scale looting and illicit trafficking of cultural objects, especially as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation.
The Department of Antiquities, in close collaboration with all other competent authorities and the National Committee for Combating the Looting and Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage continue their efforts to identify looted and stolen cultural objects which have been dispersed around the globe.
REPATRIATION OF AN INSCRIBED PEDIMENT OF A FUNERARY STELE
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that today, 12th September 2019 an important antiquity originating from Cyprus, was handed over at the offices of the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union in Brussels. The Cypriot antiquity was in the possession of Ms. Christiane Koojj, a resident of Brussels, Belgium. Ms. Koojj had recently informed in writing the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus in Paris that the cultural object was inherited to her and her siblings from their late mother and that their request was to deliver it back to its country of origin. The Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus in Belgium referred Ms. Koojj to the Director of the Department of Antiquities as the competent authority on such matters.
The said antiquity is the upper part of a limestone funerary stele consisting of a horizontal cornice, decorated with geisipodes in relief, over which a pediment with a frame in relief is formed. The pediment corners are crowned by acroteria, two of which (at the lateral ends) are decorated with roughly carved anthemia, while the central one, without bearing any sign of breakage, is scarcely marked. In the middle of the two oblique sides of the pediment, there are carved pomegranates. In the middle of the pediment, within the frame in relief, appears to be an apotropaic Medusa head (Gorgoneion). The horizontal cornice bears a Cypro-syllabic inscription, while other cypro-syllabic symbols cover the pediment, which may be later additions. Based on palaeographic criteria, the inscription dates to the end of the 4th - beginning of the 3rd century BC.
The carved pediment is very similar to another Cypriot funerary pedimental stele from the village of Tremetoushia (Larnaka District), now in the British Museum. The Tremetoushia pediment had been previously dated to the 1st century AD, however, the discovery of this second similar stele, which is evidently from the same workshop, allows for a more accurate dating, four centuries earlier than the initial dating.
The antiquity was handed over to the Director of the Department of Antiquities Dr. Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou by Ms. Christiane Koojj in the presence of the competent Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus Mr. Elpidoforos Economou. Present during the ceremony were Police Inspector Mr. Michalis Gavrielides, Head of the Office for Combating Illegal Possession and Trafficking of Antiquities (Cyprus Police), Dr. Eleftherios Charalambous, Conservator at the Department of Antiquities and Mr. Lucas Verhaegen of the Belgium Police.
The Department of Antiquities as the competent authority in Cyprus for the protection and management of cultural heritage, will continue its intensive efforts to encourage the support of citizens in the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, not only at a local but also at an international level. The cooperation of all competent authorities in the fight against the looting and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage and the repatriation of cultural objects to their country of origin is extremely valuable and of utmost importance. Although it is acknowledged that the fight against illicit trafficking is an extremely difficult and complex issue, the Department of Antiquities is confident that through coordinated efforts, the desired results related to the protection of the Cultural Heritage of all nations will be reached. One of the main priorities of the Department of Antiquities is the combatting of looting and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.
The repatriation of the antiquity to Cyprus will take place on 15 September 2019 and is the result of the coordinated efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Antiquities, the Cyprus Police and the Department of Customs and Excise.
REPATRIATION OF A RELIQUARY CASE STOLEN FROM THE AGIOS MAMAS CHURCH AT MORFOU IN THE TURKISH OCCUPIED PART OF CYPRUS,
FROM DUSSELDORF, GERMANY
The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works announces that on the 14th of May 2019, a reliquary case stolen from the Agios Mamas Church located in occupied Morfou was returned to its rightful owner, in Dusseldorf, Germany. The wooden reliquary case has the body of a book and contains the remains of Agios Panteleimon, Agios Charalambos, Agios Neophytos, Agios Tryfonos, Agios Philipos, Agios Michael Synadon, Agios Polydorou, Agios Ioannis Lampadistis and Agios Mamantos. The imagery depicted beneath the lid is that of Agios Mamas beset by Agios Panteleimon, Agios Tryfonos and two bishops. A layer of silver/metal, engraved with the year 1835, appears to be covering the remains. The reliquary case was handed over by Ms Susanne Hargesheimer, managing director of the Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Dόsseldorf auction house in the presence of the protosyncellus of the Holy Bishopric of Morfou, Archimandrite Mr. Fotios Ioakeim, the representatives of the Department of Antiquities, Mr. Giorgos Filotheou, Curator of Antiquities and Ms. Stella Pissaridou, Senior Conservator, Mrs Marianna Charalambous Consul of the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Germany and Ms. Maria Paphiti, Art Historian. The reliquary case was repatriated by the Department of Antiquities on the 15th of May 2019 and was handed over to the Holy Bishopric of Morfou. The reliquary was on sale online on the Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Dόsseldorf auction house website. The Holy Bishopric of Morfou was immediately notified.
The auctioning of the item was prevented through the coordinated efforts of the competent government authorities (Department of Antiquities, Cyprus Police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Customs and Excise) and the Holy Bishopric of Morfou including Mrs Maria Pafiti. The managing directors of the auction house Mr. and Ms. Hargesheimer, once they realised the item was illegally exported, they proceeded to purchase the object from its possessors and to return it to the Holy Metropolis of Morfou.
The Department of Antiquities wishes to extend its gratitude to the managing directors of the auction house and to all those who contributed to the timely withdrawal of the reliquary case from the online sale catalogue of the auction house and for its repatriation. The Department of Antiquities wishes to encourage citizens to give their support for the recovery and protection of the cultural objects belonging to Cyprus but as well as those of other countries or nations. It is important to emphasize that the Department of Antiquities as the competent Department for the protection and management of our cultural heritage, participates in all the efforts that are currently underway by organizations such as UNESCO, the European Commission and the Council of Europe for the advocacy of stricter procedures that will deter illegal trafficking and facilitate the repatriation of cultural objects that were unlawfully removed. In addition, the National Committee for the Combating of Looting and the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage, which consists of members from all competent government authorities and the Church of Cyprus, are making efforts, through coordinated actions, for the repatriation of all of our looted cultural treasures.
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.