The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works has announced that on the 14th of May 2019, a reliquary case stolen from the Agios Mamas Church located in occupied Morfou was returned to its rightful owner, in Düsseldorf, Germany. The wooden reliquary case has the body of a book and contains the remains of Agios Panteleimon, Agios Charalambos, Agios Neophytos, Agios Tryfonos, Agios Philippos, Agios Michael Synadon, Agios Polydoros, Agios Ioannis Lampadistis and Agios Mamantos.
The imagery depicted beneath the lid is that of Agios Mamas beset by Agios Panteleimon, Agios Tryfonos and two bishops. A layer of silver/metal, engraved with the year 1835, appears to be covering the remains. The reliquary case was handed over by Ms Susanne Hargesheimer, Managing Director of the Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf auction house in the presence of the protosyncellus of the Holy Bishopric of Morfou, Archimandrite Mr Fotios Ioakeim, the representatives of the Department of Antiquities, Mr Giorgos Filotheou, Curator of Antiquities and Ms Stella Pissaridou, Senior Conservator, Ms Marianna Charalambous, Consul of the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Germany and Ms Maria Paphiti, Art Historian. The reliquary case was repatriated by the Department of Antiquities on the 15th of May 2019 and was handed over to the Holy Bishopric of Morfou.
The reliquary was on sale online on the Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf auction house website. The Holy Bishopric of Morfou was immediately notified.
The auctioning of the item was prevented through the coordinated efforts of the competent government authorities (Department of Antiquities, Cyprus Police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Customs and Excise) and the Holy Bishopric of Morfou including Ms Pafiti. The Managing Directors of the auction house Hargesheimer, once they realised the item was illegally exported, they proceeded to purchase the object from its possessors and to return it to the Holy Metropolis of Morfou.
The Department of Antiquities wishes to extend its gratitude to the Managing Directors of the auction house and to all those who contributed to the timely withdrawal of the reliquary case from the online sale catalogue of the auction house and for its repatriation.
The Department of Antiquities wishes to encourage citizens to give their support for the recovery and protection of the cultural objects belonging to Cyprus but as well as those of other countries or nations. It is important to emphasize that the Department of Antiquities as the competent Department for the protection and management of our cultural heritage, participates in all efforts that are currently underway by organizations such as UNESCO, the European Commission and the Council of Europe for the advocacy of stricter procedures that will deter illegal trafficking and facilitate the repatriation of cultural objects that were unlawfully removed. In addition, the National Committee for the Combating of Looting and the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage, which consists of members from all competent government authorities and the Church of Cyprus, are making efforts, through coordinated actions, for the repatriation of all of our looted cultural treasures.