The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972, has been ratified to date by 188 States Parties making it the most widely recognized international treaty for heritage protection.
The Convention promotes the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage considered of great importance for humanity. Its primary mission is to define the world’s heritage by drawing up a list of sites whose “outstanding universal values” should be preserved for all mankind and to ensure their protection through a closer cooperation among nations.
The Republic of Cyprus ratified the Convention in 1975, undertaking a shared responsibility with other Member States to protect World Heritage sites. Cyprus was also one of the first Member States to achieve the inclusion of monuments and sites on the World Heritage List.
So far, Cyprus has three sites listed:
The first listing was concluded in 1980 and concerns Paphos site, including Kato Paphos (Ancient Nea Paphos) and Kouklia village (ancient Palaepaphos). The World Heritage Committee inscribed Paphos on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (iv) as below:
Criterion (iii): The archaeological remains of both sites are of great antiquity. Some of these, such as the Temple of Aphrodite at Palaepaphos, date back to the 12th century B.C. The remains of the mosaics of Nea Paphos are extremely rare and rank amongst the best examples in the world. The architectural remains of villas, palaces, baths, theatres, basilicas, fortresses and rockhewn peristyle tombs demonstrate the exceptional archaeological and historical values of the ancient world, as they are one of the keys of our understanding of ancient architecture, ancient way of life and mind.
Criterion (vi): The universal religious and cultural importance of the cult of Aphrodite, local fertility deity of Palaepaphos, which developed into the world goddess of love and beauty, is an indisputable fact that contributes to the outstanding value of these properties.
The second listing was concluded in 1985, initially including nine Byzantine and Post Byzantine Churches of the Troodos mountain range, to which a tenth church was added in 2001. The World Heritage Committee inscribed the site “Painted Churches in the Troodos Region” on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) as below:
Criterion (ii): Although the existence of any direct influence cannot be confirmed, there did, during the 12th century, exist very close relationships between painting in Cyprus and Western Christian art (stylistic relationships in the case of Nikitari paintings; iconographical relationships in the case of the paintings of Lagoudera). Thus, there do exist some answers to the very complex question of ties between the two Christianities. These answers take the form of Cypriot monuments, which precede the constitution of the Frankish Lusignan Kingdom, which was a fundamental link in the chain of East-West artistic exchanges.
Criterion (iii): The paintings of the region of Troodos bear an oustanding testimony to the Byzantine civilization at the time of the Comnenes, thanks to the Nikitari and Lagoudera ensembles. It should be noted that the former, where the name Alexis Comnene is mentioned in a dedication, was probably executed by artists from Constantinople and the latter was painted at the very time of the fall of Isaac Comnene and the sale of Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan.
Criterion (iv): The churches of the region of Troodos are a well conserved example of rural religious architecture during the Byzantine period. The refinement of their décor provides a contrast with their simplicity of structure. The latest post-Byzantine painters alone, with their “rustic” style, are at times in harmony with this vernacular architecture.
The third listing was concluded in 1998 and concerns the Neolithic Settlement of Choirokoitia. The World Heritage Committee inscribed Choirokoitia on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv) as below:
Criterion (ii): In the prehistoric period, Cyprus played a key role in the transmission of culture from the Near East to the European world.
Criterion (iii): Choirokoitia is an exceptionally well preserved archaeological site that has provided, and will continue to provide, scientific data of great importance relating to the spread of civilization from Asia to the Mediterranean world.
Criterion (iv): Both the excavated remains and the untouched part of Choirokoitia demonstrate clearly the origins of proto-urban settlement in the Mediterranean region and beyond.