Four wall paintings from the Church of Panagia Apsinthiotissa at Sychari and other churches in occupied Cyprus, which were in the possession of the NGO Walk of Truth, found their way back home.

The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announced that yesterday, 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.