The Church of Cyprus signed Tuesday an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the restoration of the Turkish occupied Monastery of Apostolos Andreas (Apostle Andrew), situated at the north-easternmost point of the island of Cyprus.

The Monastery, which was once the pride of all Cypriots, has fallen into a state of deterioration, following the Turkish invasion in 1974. The agreement signed Tuesday envisages to restore the Monastery by 2017.

The agreement was signed by Bishop of the Karpas Christoforos who has been prevented several times by the Turkish occupation regime from holding services in the occupied churches of the Karpas Peninsula. The agreement had already been signed by the UNDP’s Director of Regional Bureau for Europe, Cihan Sultanoglu, in the headquarters in New York.

In statements after the signing ceremony, Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus Chrysostomos II, said that the Monastery of Apostle Andrew has been the first pilgrimage in Cyprus and expressed hope that the restoration work would contribute to it returning to the glory it enjoyed in the past, before the Turkish troops invaded Cyprus.

Asked if the Bishop of Karpas will now be able to hold religious services there, the Archbishop said that he raised this issue during a  recent meeting he held in the UN buffer zone in Nicosia with the religious leader of the Turkish Cypriots, who promised to discuss the issue with the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

Meanwhile, today, the UNDP signed an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot Evkaf administration for the restoration of the Monastery. The project is funded by the Church of Cyprus and the Evkaf Administration (with 2.5 million euro each) and with a contribution of 25,000 USD from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Greek Cypriot representative at the bi-communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, Takis Hadjidemetriou, said that funding is open for more contributions, state or private, from other governments, organisations etc.

He also said that the signing of the agreements sends a double message. Firstly, it denotes appreciation to a monument with religious and symbolic value and secondly, it is proof of what can be achieved through collective and bi-communal cooperation at the level of the Technical Committee for the preservation of the common cultural heritage of Cyprus.

According to a UNDP press release, the overall restoration of the Monastery will take place in phases: Phase A: Restoration of the Church & the adjacent buildings & Geotechnical investigations, Phase B: Restoration of the Chapel and the Fountain,
Phase C: Restoration of the building on the north wing, and Phase D: External works.

All these phases will be carried out in accordance with the designs of the University of Patras of Greece. The restoration project has been approved and accepted by the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. UNDP and the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage have been working with the technical team of the Patras University to finalise the tender dossier documents for the Phase A of the restoration.

It is envisaged that the revision of the technical documents will be completed in the coming weeks and work will begin in December.

According to the same press release, Turkish Cypriot representative at the Technical Committee Ali Tuncay, said that “we regard all cultural heritage monuments, regardless of its origin, as part of the common heritage of humanity. The Apostolos Andreas Monastery is one of these monuments”.

“The support we have given to the establishment and work of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage is a clear indication of our dedication to the protection of the rich and varied cultural heritage of the island”, he added.

On behalf of the UNDP, Tiziana Zennaro said that “we understand the complexity of preserving and protecting the cultural heritage sites in Cyprus and for this reason we wish to congratulate the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage for their joint vision for the future of Cyprus’ cultural heritage and for their initiative to support this important project”.

“We are grateful to all involved parties for the efforts made, in particular the Church of Cyprus and the Evkaf Administration for their financial contribution without which we would not have been here today. We will continue working together for the successful implementation of this project,” she concluded.

The 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the subsequent occupation of the island have taken a heavy toll on Cyprus’ cultural heritage, despite existing internationally binding treaties regarding the protection of cultural heritage.

The damage is grave and in many cases, irreversible. The occupied museums have been looted and so have many private collections of antiquities. Churches have been vandalized; ecclesiastical icons and vessels stolen, church frescoes and mosaics have been removed and in many cases have been traced in Europe’s illegal antiquities trade markets and in auctions around the world.

The most serious and large-scale damage has been noted on the islands’ occupied churches. Some of the churches have even been demolished, others pillaged and some are currently being used as stables, mosques or as part of military camps.

Leave a Reply