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The Looting of Cultural heritage in Occupied Cyprus

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EARLY CHRISTIAN SITES, BYZANTINE / POST-BYZANTINE CHURCHES AND MONASTERIES, MEDIEVAL MONUMENTS

THE DESTRUCTION OF OCCUPIED CYPRUS’ CULTURAL HERITAGE


Lambousa



Lambousa

Lambousa, situated near the modern village of Lapithos in the Kyrenia district, was an important Early Christian city, abandoned during the 7th century as a result of the Arab raids. The only standing monument within the ruined city is the medieval chapel of Agios Evlalios. At a short distance is the Acheiropietos Monastery with a Byzantine church which was modified during the 16th century.

Lambousa is now used as a military camp while the monastery of Akheiropietos is used as a military warehouse (Olay 3.5.1982, Olay 26.4/17.5.1982). Icons from Lambousa were stolen but were later retrieved as they were being smuggled out of Ankara airport. Illegal excavations at Lambousa in the location of the famous Lambousa Treasure were conducted by the so called “Department of Antiquities” and a German team of unknown academic qualifications (Kibris 4.9.1993 and 6.4.1994). According to a T/C press report (Avrupa 7/10/98) the site of ancient Lampousa has been completely neglected and the architectural remains are in urgent need of conservation.


Monastery of Christos Antiphonitis, Kalograia


Kalograia: Monastery of Christos Antiphonitis


Of particular interest is the Monastery of Christos Antiphonitis situated in the village of Kalograia in the Kyrenia district in an idyllic location in the Pentadaktylos forest. The church was originally constructed in the Byzantine period and modified in the 15th century. The interior of the church was adorned with frescoes in the 12th century and a second phase occurred at the end of the 15th – beginning of the 16th century. The earlier frescoes are preserved in the apse and on the altar’s arches. During the end of the 15th – beginning of the 16th century the central part of the dome was decorated with Christ Pantokratoras. Its interior was adorned with fine frescoes, well-preserved until 1974. The church’s icons have since disappeared and the iconostasis has been destroyed. The wall paintings representing the “Tree of Jesse” and the “Last Judgment” have been removed. (The Times 27.5.1976).


Antiphonitis church: Tree of Jesse wall painting.


Four icons depicting the Evangelists John and Mark and the Apostles Peter and Paul dating to the 16th century which were forcefully removed from the church’s wood-carved iconostasis soon after 1974, were found in May 1995 in the possession of a Dutchman, Willem Otto Arie Lans. In October 1996 a lawsuit was filed in Rotterdam by the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus for the repatriation of the four 16th century icons and for their return to their legal owner, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.





Unfortunately, early in February 1999 the Rotterdam District court ruled that the icons should remain in the possession of the elderly Dutch couple Mr and Mrs W.O.Arie Lans who had bought them from an Armenian collector soon after the 1974 invasion. Although the court ruled that the icons were indeed from the Antiphonitis church it decided that they could not be returned to the Church of Cyprus because Holland had not enacted the 1954 Hague Convention concerning the return of artifacts acquired during war and also because there was insufficient evidence to prove that the icons were purchased in bad faith. The Church of Cyprus has vowed to challenge the Dutch court decision and considers an appeal against the court’s ruling.



Antiphonitis Church: Destroyed wall painting



Cathedral of Saint Sofia

The Cathedral of Saint Sofia is one of Cyprus’ most important Gothic monuments. It is the oldest and largest Gothic church built on the island. Dating to the 13th century it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus in 1571 and renamed Selimiye mosque.


Lefkosia: Cathedral of Saint Sofia


In 1988, following a study by Architect UNDP Expert Danilo Demi, restoration work was undertaken on the cathedral’s exterior south and west sides.

According to an article in the T/C newspaper Yeni Düzen (20/7/1992) this very important medieval monument, which is situated in the occupied part of walled Lefkosia, was used for the public conveniences of illegal immigrant workers. In May 1993 information reached us that the Turkish-Cypriots were carrying out construction work on the Cathedral.


Bellapais Abbey



Bellapais Abbey


The famous Bellapais Abbey is situated to the southeast of Kyrenia and it is one of the most important Gothic monuments on the island. According to reports (Asme Humanitas, Report on Cyprus 1977, Pos. VI, Transcripts) the small church of Bellapais has been looted.


Kyrenia Castle


Kyrenia Castle


The Kyrenia castle preserves Byzantine remains but the fortifications date to the Frankish and Venetian periods. The castle houses the restored 4th century B.C. Kyrenia ship along with its cargo.



Khrysokava rock-cut chapel, Kyrenia

The 9th and 10th century paintings of this rock-cut chapel have been destroyed.





Church of Archangelos Michael, Kyrenia

Thirteen 19th century icons have been stolen from the church of Archangel Michael in Kyrenia (Kibris, 1994).



Monastery of St. John Chrysostomos, Koutsoventis

The UNESCO emissary Jacques Dalibard reported that icons have been stolen from the monastery of St. John Chrysostomos at Koutsoventis.



Monastery of Panagia Apsinthotissa, Sychari

Icons have been stolen from the monastery of Panagia Apsinthiotissa situated north of the villages of Sychari and Vouno in the Kyrenia district. The information was given by the UNESCO emissary Jacques Dalibard.

Byzantine frescoes (dating to the 12th-14th centuries) have been removed from the monastery’s church after being cut into pieces. Parts of the frescoes have appeared in the European antique market. The church itself has been turned into a stable (Nostra Kibris 24-30.4.1994).



Church of Karmi

Two icons were reported stolen from the church of the village of Karmi (Bozkurt 9.3.1979).



Monastery of St. Panteleimon, Myrtou

The monastery of St. Panteleimon in Myrtou dates to the 18th century. The monastery’s church was plundered and is now part of a military camp.



Monastery of Panagia ton Katharon, Larnaka tis Lapithou

The church of the monastery of Panagia ton Katharon near Larnaca tis Lapithou has been plundered.





Church of Agios Mamas, Morphou

The “Franco-Byzantine” church of Agios Mamas dating to the 16th century was built on the ruins of earlier churches in the town of Morphou. Icons dating to the 16th and 17th centuries and a gospel adorned with precious stones have been stolen from the church (Ortam 24.4.1986).


Church of Panagia Kanakaria, Lythrangomi



Lythrangomi: Church of Panagia Kanakaria


The systematic looting of the rich cultural heritage of the Karpas peninsula continued after 1974. Most striking evidence is the removal and subsequent exportation of the famous wall mosaics of the Panagia Kanakaria church in Lythrangomi village as reported in Yeniduzen (1.6.1982), followed by successive reports in Indianapolis Star (1.4.1981) and Illustrated London News (1.6.1981).

The church belongs to the domed basilica type. The blind dome is situated above the bema. The church’s apse is the only part of the 5th century timber-roofed basilica which survives today. This earlier basilica was destroyed in the 7th century during the Arab raids. The church was initially rebuilt with a timber roof, and was later substituted with an arched roof. A dome was added above the holy bema at a later stage and another dome was added above the central aisle in the 12th century.

The church’s apse, which dates to the Middle Byzantine period, was adorned with 6th century mosaics, considered to be some of the few surviving masterpieces of Early Christian mosaics in the entire world. Ichnographically these mosaics are considered to be unique. The Virgin Mary is depicted with a bright ‘δόξα’, (glory) a feature which is normally associated with Christ. Jesus and the Virgin are accompanied by two archangels, surrounded by a frieze depicting the twelve apostles in medallions.



Lythrangomi: Church of Panagia Kanakaria


The church was looted in 1979 and the Department of Antiquities was informed that the mosaics were removed from the church. The looting was reported to UNSECO, the Council of Europe, ICOM, ICOMOS and Europa Nostra but also to professors of Byzantine art worldwide. The stolen medallions with the figures of Apostles Lukas and Bartholomew that were removed from the church’s apse were returned in 1983 via Germany and with the mediation of an art dealer in London.


Lythrangomi: Church of Panagia Kanakaria,
mosaic medallions depicting Apostles


Four mosaic fragments were located in 1988 in Indianapolis (USA). The fragments were found in the possession of Peg Goldberg, an art dealer who ran an art gallery. Goldberg illegally possessed the following fragments:

1. The upper part of Archangel Michael’s bust.
2. The upper parts of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
3. The medallions depicting Apostles Mathew and Iakovos.

    A lawsuit was filed by the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus in the U.S. District Court of Indianapolis. The lawsuit demanded that the Church and the Government of Cyprus be recognized as the legal owners of the four mosaic fragments. According to the lawsuit, Goldberg had violated the Indiana law of criminal conversion and possession of stolen property and demanded the immediate return of the mosaics. The mosaics returned to Cyprus on the 30th of August, 1991.


    Lythrangomi: Church of Panagia Kanakaria, mosaic.


    In September 1997 the medallion depicting Apostle Thaddeus was found and was repatriated and in October 1997 the medallion depicting Apostle Thomas was found by the German police in the possession of looter Aydin Dikmen. A month later, Archangel Gabriel’s right hand and the Virgin Mary’s left hand were found.


    Church of Panagia Pergaminiotissa, Akanthou

    Reports mention that wall paintings dating to the 11th-12th centuries were removed from the church of Panagia Pergaminiotissa near the village of Akanthou.



    The Early Christian Basilica of Agia Triada, Karpasia

    The basilica of Ayia Triada in Karpasia is a three-aisled basilica with a narthex and an atrium with a baptistery. It preserved mosaic floors of the 5th and 6th centuries. Today the basilica is used as a stable.



    Church of Agios Photios, Yialousa

    Agios Photios in Yialousa is a single-aisled church covered by a dome with architectural features dating most probably to the 10th century. It is built on the ruins of a 6th century basilica. The church’s interior was decorated with 15th century wall paintings. Today it is used as a stable.


    Churches of Agia Solomoni and Agios Nikolaos, Koma tou Yialou

    According to information given by a foreign scholar who visited the Karpas area in 1984, the wall paintings of the churches of Ayia Solomoni and Ayios Nikolaos in Koma tou Yialou, have been looted.



    Monastery of Apostle Andreas


    Monastery of Apostle Andreas


    The Monastery of Apostle Andreas is situated on a rocky beach in the easternmost point of the Karpas peninsula. It was built in 1867 with the initiative of priest Ioannes and inaugurated by Archbishop Sophronios I. The monastery was built in the spot where, during his first missionary journey, Apostle Andreas needed to disembark his ship and miraculously exposed a natural water source.

    The various buildings that comprise the Monastery complex are positioned around a central square. In the square’s eastern limit there is a gothic church dated to the 15th century which replaced an older, possibly early Christian church. The gothic church is of square plan (6,42 m. X 6,42 m.) with two aisles. The north aisle ends with a small apse. A central pillar supports the four groin vaults that cover the building. In the south part of the church two vaults survive and in the east there is a wall with a door that leads to the holy water near the sea where the Apostle performed his miracle. We do not know whether this older church was connected to any monastic buildings. To the west of the gothic church and at a higher level is the 1867 church. This church is single-aisled (25,40 m. X 7,92 m.) and is covered by a wide pointed dome. The west part of the church consists of a two-storey building that is used as a baptistery and the area where women gather. Along the south and west sides of the church there are porticoes with arches.

    In 1914 an oblong building was constructed to the west of the church and in 1930 the cells were added above the south portico. The belfry and a neo-renaissance building (used by the guests) to the north west of the church were also added then. Finally, in 1960 a building complex forming a Γ shape was constructed in the north and part of the west side of the square.

    On the 14/1/92 icons and other ecclesiastical objects were stolen from the Monastery of Apostle Andreas by the T/C “police”.



    Church of Agia Mavri, Rizokarpaso

    Icons and other ecclesiastical objects were stolen from the church of Agia Mavri in Rizokarpaso by the Turkish forces. The church windows were removed, leaving the 12th century wall paintings exposed to the elements (Simerini 8/3/93).



    Church of Agios Philon, Agridia

    The church of Agios Philon in the ruined village of Agridia near Rizokarpasso preserved wall paintings depicting St. John Chysostomos, St. George, St. John the Baptist and a prelate. These 12th century paintings were removed by the Turks.



    Monastery of St. Barnabas, Salamis



    Salamis: Monastery of St. Barnabas


    The monastery of St. Barnabas, one of the most important religious monuments in Cyprus, is situated about one mile west of Salamis. St. Barnabas is considered to be the patron saint and founder of the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Archbishop Anthemios founded the monastery in the late 5th century next to a sepulcher, where the remains of Saint Barnabas along with a copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel were discovered in A.D. 478. As a result of this discovery Emperor Zeno (A.D. 474-491) granted to the Church of Cyprus its autocephalous status. Anthemios’ Church was destroyed at a later date and was replaced by another church in the 17th century, which survives to this day and is considered to be one of the island’s most important pilgrimage sites.

    After the 1974 invasion the monastery of St. Barnabas was turned into a museum. The original icons of the iconostasis have disappeared (Halkin Sessi 24.8.1991). The Turkish Cypriot press (News from the North, Official Turkish Cypriot Bulletin 22.5.1980) has reported that invaluable icons and crosses were stolen from the monastery. The area around the monastery of St. Barnabas has been divided into building plots. (Kibris 21.9.1993 and Yeni Duzen 13.9.1993).

    An article by John Fielding in The Guardian (6.5.1976) mentions that only 4 out of the 26 churches visited by the author could be considered as being in a decent condition of preservation. Destruction and looting was reported at the church of Agios Demetrios at Ardhana, the church of the village of Synkrasis, the church of Agios Georgios north of Ammochostos, and the churches of the villages of Lefkoniko, Limnia, Piyi, Gaidouras, Dhavlos, Prastio, Milea, Palekythro and Pyrga.



    Monastery of Agios Spyridon, Tremetoushia

    Both the monastery and the church of St. Spyridon at Tremetoushia date back to the 18th century. The church was built upon the ruins of a basilica belonging to the end of the 4th century. The monastery building was used as a Center for Byzantine and Post Byzantine Art and for the preservation of manuscripts. More than 150 Byzantine icons and invaluable manuscripts that were stored there prior to the Turkish invasion have disappeared (report by a mission of the World Council of Churches which visited the site in 1975).



    Monastery of Panagia of Tochni, Mandres

    The church of the monastery of Panagia of Tochni, near Mandres village in the Ammochostos District, has been plundered.



    Church of Agios Prokopios, Syngrasis

    The church of Agios Prokopios in the village of Syngrasis, dating to the 14th century has been looted and its wall paintings, dating to the 14th-15th centuries, have been removed; no traces of them have been found yet.



    Church of Panagia Avgasida, Aloa

    In 1989 it was reported that the Turkish army demolished the church of Panagia Avgasida, situated near the village of Aloa in the Ammochostos district. The church was a two-aisled building dating to the 14th century with a northern aisle of the dome-hall type added in the 15th century. It was at that time that the church was decorated with wall paintings, which were preserved in good condition until the church’s demolition. The murals that decorated the church’s dome depicted Christ Pantocrator surrounded by a zone with the Deisis (Virgin Mary and St. John Prodromos) and a cortege of angels in two antithetic processions, with the Hetoimasia (the Prepared Throne of the Second Coming) scene in the centre. The fate of these important 15th century wall paintings as well as that of the church’s wood-carved iconostasis remains unknown.



    Church of Agios Themonianos or Eufimianos, Lysi


    The church of Agios Themonianos is situated about 2 miles southwest of the village of Lysi in the Ammochostos district. The church is an especially small sized, domed structure with stone masonry. The church’s interior was adorned with wall paintings dating to the 13th and 14th centuries. A foundation inscription on the apse’s base mentions that the church was a dedicated to Agios Themonianos, a local saint, by Laurentios, the abbot of Agios Andronikos monastery.

    Chirst Pantocrator is depicted on the dome surrounded by a cortege of angels in two antithetic semicircular processions facing the Hetoimasia, (the prepared throne of the Second Coming), flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. In the apse, Virgin Mary in Glory bears the medallion of the infant Christ on her breast and stands between the archangels Gabriel and Michael. In 1972 the Department of Antiquities began to conserve the wall paintings but with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 all work was abruptly stopped .

    The wall paintings were detached from the church in segments at some point in 1984. According to the Herald Tribune (9.1.1994), in 1984 a Turkish smuggler sold two frescoes, which had been badly damaged during the detachment process. Allegedly the frescoes had been found by chance in an abandoned church in southern Turkey. When the Cyprus Department of Antiquities proved that the paintings had been violently removed from the church of Agios Themonianos and after long negotiations, it was conceded that the paintings belong to the Cyprus Orthodox Church. They were recovered in 1984 by the Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas, on behalf of the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus to which they belong. Yet, it was not until 1992 that a protocol was signed between the Church of Cyprus and the Menil Foundation specifying that the custody of the murals was to be entrusted to the Menil Foundation, which would undertake their costly scientific restoration and conservation and that it would in exchange retain custody for a period of twenty years beginning in February 1992. The Foundation also undertook responsibility for the erection of an appropriate chapel-like shelter. The murals’ restoration lasted three years, from 1984 to 1988.

    The wall paintings have been returned to Cyprus, after having been kept for nearly three decades in the Menil Foundation in Houston, Texas in the USA, following the coordinated efforts of the competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus and the Church of Cyprus. The willingness of the Menil Foundation to return the wall paintings is much appreciated. The successful return of the wall paintings was achieved in a spirit of co-operation and provides evidence for the positive international climate created through various international and bilateral agreements between states that support the return of illegally exported treasures. Cyprus is actively involved in the efforts to protect cultural property, through the signing of memoranda with the United States of America and other countries and by participating in European and international fora.

    The difficult task of the transportation of the wall paintings in Cyprus was achieved through the close collaboration between the Department of Antiquities, the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus and the Menil Foundation. Conservators of the Department of Antiquities and the Menil Foundation conserved the wall paintings prior to their move, supervised their packing and accompanied the antiquities from the Menil Foundation Museum to the Byzantine Museum in Nicosia. In preparing the infrastructure for the re-exhibition, a large multidisciplinary team was involved including archaeologists, conservators, architects, civil engineers and specialised companies for transportation and installation.

    The wall paintings have been placed in a specially designed area in the first room of the Byzantine Museum of Archbishop Makarios III Foundation in Lefkosia, in an attempt to provide as close an authentic setting as possible for the wall paintings.It is hoped however, that the wall paintings will one day return to their place of origin, in the chapel of Agios Euphemianos in Lysi, after the restoration of the monument that is now in a bad state of preservation, stripped of its interior decoration.



    The Early Christian Basilica of Soloi

    The Early Christian Basilica at Soloi, in the Kyrenia district, near Morphou, is an unusually large building with mosaic floors decorated with geometric, floral and figurative motives, which were preserved in perfect condition.

    The mosaics of the Early Christian Basilica were dislocated (Cyprus Time 2.2.1990). Several projects, such as the irrigation project in the area (Kipris 14.6.1990, Cyprus Weekly 22.6.1990) caused damages to the rest of the architectural remains, which are also threatened by the vegetation clearly visible in photographs published in the Turkish Cypriot press (Turquoise, Autumn 1990, Issue Eight, Cyprus Times 8.6.1990 and 12.10.1990). Large quantities of archaeological material in the depots of the Canadian Mission have also been looted (The Guardian 11.8.1976).



    Church of Agia Anastasia, Lapithos

    According to an article in the T/C newspaper Milliyet (29/7/1993), the church of Agia Anastasia’s monastery in Lapithos village was converted into a bar.

    In January 1997 a first page article of the T/C newspaper Kibris (29/1/1997) reported that the Evkaf Administration planed to offer the area, which includes the church Agia Anastasia, for leasehold covering a period of 30 years in order to proceed with the erection of a hotel.

    According to an article in the T/C newspaper Avrupa, (25/04/1998), the church of Agia Anastasia was to be turned into a casino. This is the third time that the so-called Department of Antiquities has rented this church out. The tenant is a company called SAMPA LTD which has already began constructing buildings in the monastery area.

    This Christian monument was built at the end of the 19th century and is situated on the top of a hill. The church, along with its auxiliary buildings, became part of a tourist resort, named Anastasia Resort Hotel. In its advertisement the “hotel” mentions the church’s historical background and is therefore commercially exploiting this religious building. Such unacceptable actions constitute yet another example of the occupation authorities’ ongoing policy of pillage, destruction and disrespect towards the religious and cultural heritage of Cyprus.



    Church of Panagia Chrysotrimithiotissa, Trimithi

    On the 6th of April 1996, the T/C newspaper Cyprus Today (engl. lang.) published an announcement by the British/Turkish Cypriot Company Keskin and Smith Estate Agents offering the Church of Panagia Chrysotrimithiotissa in the occupied village of Trimithi, for leasehold of £32.500. The Church, which dates to the mid-Byzantine period, had already been turned into an “art gallery and Cypriot craft centre” in 1992.


    Monastery of Panagia Eleousa, Rizokarpaso

    On the 11th of May 1996, the T/C newspaper Cyprus Today (engl. lang.) reported that the monastery of Panagia Eleousa in Rizokarpasso village in the Ammochostos district, after having been “restored”, was turned into a motel and restaurant. On the 29th of June 1993, the Turkish newspaper Milliyet reported that the Turkish government gave permission for all churches to be turned into mosques but as far as this monastery is concerned, permission was only given for the church to be turned into a bar, excluding the monastic cells.



    Church of Agios Anastasios, Peristerona (Famagusta district)

    The wood-carved “royal-doors” of the iconostasis from the Church of Agios Anastasios in Peristerona village in the Ammochostos district were located at the Art College of Kanazawa in Japan. Attempts are being made through UNESCO to repatriate this piece of art, although it has recently come to our attention that a compensation fee is demanded.


    Monastery of Agios Makarios (Armenomonastiro), Halefka

    The Armenian monastery of St. Makar, situated near Halefka village, dates to the medieval period (15th century). In 1814 a new church was built in the north side of the original monastic building. The monastery has been a well-known spiritual centre throughout the centuries and it has played a significant role in the history of the Armenian Church in the Middle East, in general, and for the Armenian community of Cyprus in particular. Ever since the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island in 1974, the Armenian community has been denied access to the monastery, which has been looted, vandalized and partially destroyed.

    On 13/1/97 the T/C newspaper Ortam reported in an article entitled “Great Shame” that the Armenian monastery of St. Makar, otherwise known as Surp Magar, is in a dreadful state of preservation: “The masonry is falling down and the site is full of weeds. The destroyed rooms provoke to the visitors feelings of grief. The then rooms of worship are turned into rooms of shame”.

    In February 1997 an article in the art periodical Cultural Cyprus (in Greek) mentioned that the Church of Agios Makarios, was completely destroyed as a result of fire. Photographic material of 1985, 1989 and 1992 shows that the monastery was already in a deplorable state of preservation and demonstrates the continuous destruction in the island’s occupied areas.

    On 21/1/98 the T/C newspaper Kibris reported in a front-page article that the Armenian monastery of St. Makar was to be converted into a hotel. According to this report, due to the monastery’s “beautiful sea and forest view ... will be turned into a 50 bed hotel. The project will be completed at a cost of one million U.S. dollars ... and will be leased for US $ 20.000 per year”. ... what will be done to the Armenian monastery will serve as an example for other historic sites”.

    According to an article in the G/C newspaper Politis 18/4/2005, the monastery was turned into a cafeteria where, according to the T/C newspaper Yeni Düzen (17/5/05) “tourists can find something hot or cold to drink”. The same newspaper mentions that T/C enterprise holder Dervis Sonmezler, who some time ago rented the monastery in order to turn it into a hotel and did not manage to obtain the necessary permit, is now using it as a cafeteria. Mr. Sonmezler is planning to turn the whole monastery area into a camping site and has already managed to be provided with electricity from a nearby location.




    Other cases of destruction

    • The churches of Panagia at Makrasyka and of Agios Theodoros at Lapithos, Panagia Chryseleousa at Katokopia (old church), Archangel Michael at Rizokarpaso and Agios Afxentios at Komi Kepir have been looted.

    • The churches of Panagia Evangelistria at Gerolakkos, of Prophitis Zacharias at Pano Dikomo, Panagia Chryseleousa at Katokopia have been turned into mosques.

    • The church of Agios Mamas at Gerolakkos has been turned into a cultural centre.


    [The above cases were reported to us by our permanent representative at the United Nations, S. Zakhaios (Phileleftheros 25/2/99)].

    • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris 21/4/99 the so-called ‘Director of the Department of Antiquities’ of the occupied part of Cyprus Ali Kanli announced that work undertaken by his “Department” at the monastery of Apostolos Barnabas was to continue so that the Monastery could also function as an Archaeological Museum and as an Icon Museum. Kanli also added that his other goals included the conversion of the Kyrenia castle into a Museum of Modern Art and the restoration of other historic sites and buildings such as the monastery of Apostolos Andreas.

    • According to an article in the G/C newspaper Phileleftheros (21/11/00), the following churches were turned into mosques in the Kythrea region: Agia Anna at Syrkania, Agios Ioannis Theologos at Mia Milia, and Agios Georgios at Exo Metohi.

    • An article in the T/C newspaper Kibris 13/12/00 reported that the belfry of the Church of Agios Theodoros in Lapithos was struck by lightning and that part of it has collapsed.

    • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris, (13/1/01), five ancient tombs dating to the Geometric period were discovered in the area between the occupied villages of Lapithos and Agios Ermolaos. The finds included an amphora, two hydrias and two other vessels. The tombs were discovered during works the installation of water pipes in the area.

    • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (9/2/01) antiquities dating to the Middle Bronze Age were unearthed in the area between the villages of Korovia and Galinoporni, as a result of illegal excavations undertaken by the so-called ‘Department of Antiquities and Museums’ under the guidance of a Swedish tour operator named Anders Arvidsson who frequently visits the occupied northern part of Cyprus.

    • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (17/3/01), during a meeting of the so-called ‘Chamber of Representatives’ on the 16th of March 2001, the “member of the Democratic Party” Nurten Hiountavertioglou mentioned the negligence of the responsible authorities for the ancient monuments in the occupied areas and mainly referred to the Monastery of St Barnabas which faces major problems of humidity and of inadequate security.

    • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (14/4/01), the so-called police of the occupied part of Cyprus discovered a number of ecclesiastical objects and other antiquities in the possession of a German woman living in Karmi village.

    • The G/C newspaper Politis (28/06/01) refers to an article in the T/C newspaper Halkin Sessi which mentions the dreadful state of preservation of the Gothic monuments in the walled city of Ammochostos; weeds are growing everywhere around the monuments, garbage is thrown in the area and the fire risk is high.

    • According to the G/C newspaper Phileleftheros (26/7/01) the church of the Transfiguration of our Savior at Akanthou has been turned into a mosque.

    • According to the T/C weekly newspaper Cyprus Today (28/7/01-3/8/01) the site of the 17th century Church of Panagia Thermiotissa at Thermia in which Bronze Age pottery has been discovered, will be turned into a restaurant. According to another article of the T/C newspaper Kibris (7/8/01) all work regarding this project was restrained.

    • According to the T/C newspaper Kibris (4/9/01) a mission from the Turkish University of Mersina began excavations in the area of Rizokarpaso. During excavation work which was to last for three years a Byzantine church was unearthed.

    • According to the T/C newspaper Kibris (20/2/02) an ancient tomb was unearthed in the occupied village of Galatia in the Karpas peninsula. The tomb, dating to the Roman period, was discovered accidentally when a hole was opened by the wheel of a tractor.
      • According to information, which reached us on the 10th of July 2002, an unknown number of icons was stolen from the church of Agios Ioannis in the occupied town of Ammochostos. After the Turkish invasion of 1974 the church was turned into an Icon Museum.

      • According to information (10/7/2002), one Sami Mustafa inhabitant of the occupied village of Agios Theodoros in the Ammochostos district, was arrested for stealing marbles believed to belong to the chapel of Agios Evlogios which had already been looted in the past.

      • According to information (10/7/2002), unknown people stole the bell from the chapel of Agia Paraskevi in the occupied town of Ammochostos. The chapel was looted and is now used as a storeroom.
        • According to the T/C newspaper Yeni Demokrat (4/11/2002) the church of Agios Georgios, situated in the medieval town of Ammochostos, is in a dreadful state of preservation and has been turned into a rubbish dump. The newspaper mentions that other churches in the medieval town of Ammochostos are also in the same situation.

        • According to an article published in the T/C newspaper Kibris (November 2002) by journalist Serkan Yourour the interior of the church of the occupied village of Vouno in the Kyrenia district has almost been completely destroyed. The church’s wall paintings have been destroyed and the portable icons have been looted.
          • According to an article published in the T/C newspaper Yeniduzen (13/10/200) the church of Livera village in the Kyrenia district after first having been turned into a mosque is now in a dreadful condition. According to the person responsible for the new function of the building, if it is not restored soon it will collapse.



          New cases of destruction

          • According to an article published in the T/C newspaper Kibris (11/3/2003) during excavations undertaken by the so-called “Department of Antiquities and Museums” an ancient tomb was found in the occupied village Vassili in the district of Ammochostos. The tomb probably dates to the Roman period. The newspaper mentions that the tomb consists of two rooms and that around 15 people were probably buried in it. Kibris mentions that glass objects, two pieces of gold jewelry, coins and two sarcophagi were among the finds.
            • According to the T/C press (24/1/03) an archaic statue was discovered in the occupied village of Vasili in the Karpas area. According to the same article, this is the fourth archaic statue discovered in the same area during the same period. The other three were found in the occupied villages of Leonarisso, Lythrankomi and Agios Theodoros.

            • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (17/4/03), the T/C “police” arrested a man called Mehmet Uzulman in Famagusta, after finding 60 coins dating to the Byzantine period in his possession.

            • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (22/4/03), during a raid at a house in Templos village in the Kyrenia district, on the 21st of April 2003 the T/C “police” discovered Roman amphorae along with a large quantity of drugs. The person involved was prosecuted.

            • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (25/6/03), an ancient tomb dating to the Geometric period (8th c. B.C.), was discovered during excavation work in the area between the villages of Galatia and Platanissos. The excavations were conducted by the so-called ‘Department of Antiquities and Museums’. The finds included a scarab of semi-precious stone, a crater, two amphorae, three wine glasses, three dishes, one small glass and one big wine amphora.

            • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (10/7/03), the T/C “police” arrested 24 year old Fahri Tilim on the 8th of July 2003 after an amphora and two wine jars of the Geometric period, a medieval jar, two icons dating to 1861 and 1934 and a tapestry were found in his possession. The person was prosecuted.

            • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (22/7/03), the archaeological excavations in the occupied village of Akanthou began on the 28th of June and lasted until the 8th of August 2003. The excavations were directed by the vice-president of the so-called ‘Department of Archaeology and History of Art’ of the “Eastern Mediterranean University” Dr. Mügue Shievketoglou, along with a team of 30 academics and students. The excavations are funded by the “University of the Eastern Mediterranean”, the pseudo-Ministry of Tourism and Environment and by local organizations. Objects dating to the Neolithic period have been brought to light. According to an article in the T/C newspaper Yeni Düzen (5/7/04) the excavations at the occupied village of Akanthou, which began in 1999, were to take place between the 28th of June and the 8th of August 2004.
              • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (18/11/03), the so-called “Department of Antiquities and Museums” conducted illegal excavations at the village of Livadia in the district of Ammochostos. During these excavations two tombs and various antiquities were discovered.

              • According to an article in the G/C newspaper Haravgi (11/9/03), the church of the Transfiguration of our Savior at Akanthou village has been looted. All crosses and bells have been removed from the building.

              • According to an article in the T/C press dated 18/1/2004 and 19/1/2004, an ancient tomb of the Geometric period was found at a distance of approximately 2 km from the ruins of the Monastery of Eleousa to the west of Rizokarpasso village. The objects from the tomb included three amphorae, one wine vessel, four jars, one unguentarium and various other objects.

              • According to an article in the English G/C newspaper Cyprus Mail (11/6/2004) the Early Bronze Age necropolis of Vounous near Kazafani in the Kyrenia district was bulldozed to the ground by a private construction company damaging the hundred or so tombs located there. According to the article a fierce row broke out between the Turkish Cypriot “Department of Antiquities and Museums” and a construction company over the illegal destruction of a grade one archaeological site at Vounos to make way for luxury houses.

              • According to the radio broadcasting corporation Bayrak (5/7/04), 26 bronze ancient objects were found in a pithos in the occupied village of Galinoporni. Some of these objects are considered to be unique in the world.

              • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (1/9/2004), 50 ancient objects together with human skeletons were unearthed during construction work in the occupied village of Kazafani in the district of Kyrenia. The article reports that the “Department of Museums and Antiquities” immediately began to excavate the area and two tombs were discovered with grave goods such as gold rings and glass vessels dating to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

              • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (10/9/2004) a tomb dating to the Greco-Roman period (400 B.C.) was unearthed in Kyrenia. The tomb’s architecture is considered to be of special interest.

              • According to the T/C newspaper Kibris (18/10/2004), Bulent Kiziltuman, an archaeologist of the so-called “School of Archaeology and History of Art” of the so-called “Eastern Mediterranean University”, discovered important material during his archaeological survey of the Morphou area which started in 2003. The survey was conducted by students from the aforementioned ‘University’, six archaeologists, one art historian, one geologist and one pottery specialist. The survey was conducted in the villages of Loutro, Pentagia, Philia, Kyra, Chrysouliou, Kalo Chorio (Kapouti) and Asomatos. In the villages of Philia, Kyra, Chrysouliou, Kalo Chorio (Kapouti) and Asomatos twenty-three archaeological sites were discovered. Fourteen of these are settlements and the other nine are cemeteries. Six out of the twenty-three sites were previously completely unknown to us while the other seventeen had already been excavated.

              • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (6/11/2004) Rosalia Cappenberg, a German inhabitant of Lapithos, was arrested for illegally possessing a number of antiquities in her house including: 16 icons, 4 religious books, 1 sword, 48 pieces of iconostasis, 5 church items, 3 candlesticks, 2 fragments of candlesticks, 2 canon balls, 6 bowls, 1 amphora, 1 metal box, 4 jars, 2 pieces of alabaster, 1 mill-stone, 21 architectural blocks and pieces of columns. These were all confiscated. The icons date to the 19th and the 20th centuries.

              • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (12/1/05) a 3000 year old tomb came to light during works for the installation of water-pipes at Agios Andronikos village in the Ammochostos district. The excavation was undertaken by the so-called ‘Department of Antiquities and Museums’. Three human skeletons and 25 ceramic vases characteristic of the Geometric period (1050-750 B.C.) were found in the tomb. According to Hasan Tekel of the so-called ‘Department of Antiquities and Museums’, who is responsible for the Ammochostos area, these finds are very important because they give information concerning a period which is not very well known to us.

              • According to lawful information, illegal excavations were conducted at the Late Bronze Age site at Galinoporni village, at the locality Lofos tou Vasilia in the Karpas peninsula by a Turkish Cypriot University (University of the Eastern Mediterranean) in collaboration with the German Universities of Tübingen and Freiberg. Apparently an excavation permit was granted by the illegal authorities of Northern Cyprus and was allegedly funded by the European Union. This behavior is unprofessional and unlawful. The excavations are conducted illegally and in violation of the International Conventions of UNESCO (1954, 1970 and 1972) which specify that it is illegal to conduct excavations or other archaeological field work in occupied territories.
                • On the 7th of September 2005 a written accusation addressed to the Director of the Department of Antiquities was made concerning the destruction of the important Neolithic site of Apostolos Andreas-Kastros. The destruction was also reported in the T/C newspaper Afrika (13/9/05). The Neolithic site of Apostolos Andreas-Kastros situated in the occupied cape of Apostolos Andreas dates to c. 6th M.B.C. It is the only coastal site, probably a fishing village, belonging to the Aceramic Neolithic period which exemplifies the adaptation of the material culture of the period to the coastal environment and resources. The site was bulldozed and leveled by the Turkish army and where there were once archaeological remains now stand the flag poles of Turkey and the pseudo state. Further destruction to the ruins came with the creation of a road opened in order to give access to the flags. According to the T/C article, the army has not been given permission to raise flag poles on the site. The so-called mayor of the occupied village of Rizokarpasso, Arif Ozbayrak said that his “municipality” is not responsible for the destruction and that the army had asked for bulldozers from them and the community had given them the machines. The destruction of this site obliterates part of the history of Cyprus and indicates the “authorities’” lack of control and sensitivity in relation to the protection of cultural heritage.
                  • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (19/10/2005), the Cathedral of St. Sofia (Selimiye mosque) in Lefkosia is in urgent need of restoration. There is serious damage in the foundations of the church, there are cracks on its walls and the building suffers from humidity. According to architect Hassan Erhan conservation work must start immediately otherwise the church will collapse in the next 50-60 years. He also mentions that the Cathedral of St. Sofia is a very important building and that it has not been given the attention it deserves. He also stresses that the first problem that needs to be dealt with is the problem of humidity. He mentions lastly the conservation work executed in the 1970’s by an Italian architect but was limited to the treatment of the church’s foundations. At the time the Italian architect was working for the Department of Antiquities.

                  • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Afrika (6/11/05) antiquities are being destroyed due to various construction activities in the Karpas region and more specifically at Trikomo and Vokolida villages. The article mentions that an important necropolis of the Iron Age is being used as a rubbish dump and that Apagou church has been bulldozed.
                    • According to articles in the G/C newspapers O Fileleftheros and Politis (9/11/05) based on an article in the T/C newspaper Afrika, the medieval sarcophagus lid of Abbess Eschive de Dampierre which was placed under the eastern arch of the Armenian church on Victoria street in the Lefkosia buffer zone near the Pafos Gate, has been recently vandalized. The church used to be part of the Benedictine monastery of nuns in Lefkosia and is dated to the early 14th century.
                      • According to lawful information the pseudo police arrested a certain Mehmet Ali Ilkman after discovering a large number (500) of important antiquities in his house. Ilkman who is a Turkish-Cypriot, was well-known in the past as being a member of the TMT (Turkish Resistance Organization). Among the antiquities found was a number of ancient amphorae, Ottoman documents bearing various Sultan seals, 201 17th century ecclesiastical manuscripts, three wood-carved bema doors, other objects bearing the signatures of Sultans, a statue of Christ and a number of other objects. During the search two guns and a number of ammunitions were also found. A student named Zeki Sezener, was also arrested regarding the same case. Both were accused of illegally possessing antiquities.

                      • According to an article in the T/C newspaper Kibris (4/7/2006), a rich tomb was found on a hill between the occupied villages of Vatyli and Sinda in the Ammochostos district. The tomb was located during the construction of a road in the nearby area by a private company. According to Hasan Tekel who is in charge of the so-called ‘Department of Antiquities and Museums’ in the Ammochostos district, the tomb is approximately 2300 years old and dates to the Hellenistic/ Roman period. Although the tomb was destroyed by heavy lorries and equipment used for the construction of the road, the so-called ‘Department of Antiquities’ managed to rescue many items such as five stone sarcophagi of various sizes, a gold earring, 21 bronze coins, 20 clay lamps, beads of various colors, unguentaria, bronze needles, one ivory needle, amphorae and human bones.





                      The Aydin Dikmen case

                      On the 10th of October 1997 the Munich police, acting upon information given by the Cyprus Police Authorities, arrested Aydin Dikmen, a 60-year-old Turk living in Munich who kept stolen church treasures and other antiquities in his apartment. The objects were found after Dikmen was set up by his collaborators. Dikmen was long ago suspected of carrying out international art smuggling.

                      Many objects were found in Dikmen’s possession, including two icons, one dating to the 14th century and the other to the 16th century belonging to the Monastery of Agios Chrysostomos at Koutsovendis. In addition, about thirty late 15th century wall painting fragments from the Monastery of Christ Antiphonitis near Kalogrea village were recovered; both monasteries are in the occupied part of Cyprus. The missing 6th century mosaic representing Saint Thomas from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria of Lythrangomi village was also amongst the items discovered. Ancient manuscripts and antiquities from important archaeological sites, museums and private collections were also found. The government of the Republic of Cyprus has begun procedures for the restitution of all treasures.








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