Cyprus & World News

CYPRUS: Occupied monastery needs to be restored promptly, Europa Nostra says

19 October, 2012

There is an urgent need for the occupied Monastery of Apostle Andreas in the Karpass peninsula to be restored soon, based on the plans prepared by academics of the Greek University of Patra, Vice President of Europa Nostra Costas Carras has said.

Carras along with the Board of Europa Nostra are in Cyprus to participate in the 5th Forum of European Heritage in the framework of the European Heritage Days. The Forum took place between 14-16 October under the auspices of the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Board members yesterday met with the technical committee of cultural heritage - consisting of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot members – and visited the occupied monastery, the walled city of Famagusta and Agios Filonas church in the Karpass peninsula in the occupied northern part of Cyprus.

Speaking Thursday at a press conference in Famagusta Gate in Nicosia, Caras described as very impressive the work that is being carried out by the joint Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot committee on cultural heritage.

He said that there is a great deal of complexity as regards issues related to cultural heritage in Cyprus and that quite often there is a correlation with politics.
Caras stressed out that cultural heritage cannot be related to politics because it belongs to the whole of the world and because of the huge destruction that is taking place.

He said that Apostle Andreas is a site of great importance for Cypriots and the plans carried out by the University of Patra should go forward without any further delay.

“The study should be implemented and this should be done as soon as possible”, he pointed out.

The Monastery of Apostle Andreas is situated on a rocky beach in the easternmost point of the Karpass peninsula and it is one of the most sacred pilgrim sites in Cyprus.

A draft agreement on the restoration of the Monastery was presented by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) to the Management Committee of the Monastery, under Bishop of Karpasia Christoforos, during a meeting early October. No timeframes have been set for the conclusion of the evaluation of the draft and the arrangement of a new meeting with the UNDP, but the Church wishes for this to happen as soon as possible.

Europa Nostra Vice President also referred to the restoration of a number of monuments in the occupied city of Famagusta, noting however that the pace of work needs to be increased so that they gain momentum.

He also said that the work of the joint committee is extremely important and should be supported by the society in Cyprus.

As regards the Agios Filonas church, he said that severe damage has been done. He also referred to the architectural heritage in the buffer zone in Nicosia, pointing out that the master plan for the restoration of the area should be implemented.

Executive President of Europa Nostra Denis de Kergorlay also referred to the great work of the committee of cultural heritage, noting at the same time that there is great concern about the destruction of the cultural heritage in Cyprus.

He said that there are long lasting ties between Europa Nostra and Cyprus, adding that since 1983 the island has been awarded a total of 14 awards by the organization. The first prize was given to Famagusta Gate where today’s press conference took place.

Europa Nosta Secretary General Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic said that the organization has great supporters in Cyprus and that the relations are being strengthened. She referred to the initiatives taken by the Cypriot Commissioner Androula Vasiliou.

Mihailovic referred to the rich cultural heritage of Cyprus, adding that education plays an important role in raising awareness on the matter.

Board Member Piet Jaspaert noted that raising awareness leads to participation of the society and to the creation of dynamic as regards the cultural heritage all around Europe.

He said that the 5th Forum on European Cultural Heritage which took place in Nicosia was very successful.

Europa Nosta was founded in 1963. Throughout the years it has managed to build a network of more than 400 member and associate organizations from all over Europe. Each year it rewards the best of cultural heritage achievements through the Europa Nostra Awards

Cyprus has been granted 14 Europa Nostra Awards and among the projects and sites that have won European recognition are the Famagusta Gate, the Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, the Leventis Foundation, the Omeriye Ottoman Baths in Nicosia and most recently, in 2011, the Architectural Heritage of Buffer Zone in the walled city of Nicosia.

Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

Since then, hundreds of valuable artifacts have been stolen from the northern Turkish occupied areas of the island and found their way into the black market overseas. More than 500 churches have been pillaged, destroyed or turned into museums, silos, warehouses or mosques.Many archaeological sites and other places belonging to the country’s 9,000 year old cultural heritage have been abandoned to the elements.

The Church of Cyprus has, at different times, managed to secure the return of stolen religious artifacts, illegally stolen and sold on the black market abroad.