By Evie Andreou
A DIVINE Liturgy will be carried out for the first time in 50 years in the occupied Armenian Church of Virgin Mary on Sunday.
“We go back with mixed feelings, we were deprived of it for so many years,” House representative of the Armenian community Vartkes Mahdessian told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.
The liturgy which will be carried out by the Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Herkelian, will take place at 12 noon and it will last about an hour.
The church has long been at the core of the Armenian community.
“I was baptised in that church and so were many people of my generation. My parents got married there, and I attended both pre-school and primary school there,” he said.
The medieval gothic church, also known as Sourp Asdvadzadzin, on Victoria Street was situated at the heart of the Armenian Quarter of Nicosia until 1964, when both the church and the quarter were abandoned during the inter-communal troubles.
In the Church Complex there were also the Armenian Bishopric, the Melikian-Ouzounian school, a pre-school, the Armenian Genocide Monument and other auxiliary buildings.
The Church provided shelter for numerous Armenians who fled the Genocide persecutions between 1915-1923 and resided under its arches for a period of time.
It was built in 1308-1310 by the Lusignan King of Cyprus Henry II where an older 12th century abbey once stood.
The monastery came under the Armenian Church in 1504. Right after the conquest of Nicosia in 1570 the church was used to store salt and was given back to the Armenians with a firman (edict) issued in 1571. Another firman from 1614 also confirms the Armenian ownership of the church.
Over time the church underwent various changes. It was restored in 1688, 1884 and 1904.
The Church Complex which was in a very bad condition was restored between 2008-2013 by UNDP-ACT and USAID funding following the initiative of the American Ambassador John Koenig.
“We are very grateful for the Ambassador, for sponsoring the project and for resolving other problems which came up during and after the completion of the restorations,” said Mahdessian.