By Constantinos Psillides
A 16th century church icon stolen from the Christ Antifonitis church in the occupied village of Kalograia was discovered at an auction house in Switzerland and will be returned to Cyprus, the Church of Cyprus said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The icon was one of many removed by looters from the Antifonitis church just after the Turkish invasion in 1974.
The icon is a classical depiction of Christ. It was supposed to be auctioned on Friday at the “Schuler Auktionen” auction house in Zurich.
The statement said that church officials stumbled upon the auction announcement online and immediately contacted the auction house.
“We put together a file proving the icon’s provenance and coordinated with all competent authorities. We contacted Interpol, the Swiss Embassy in Cyprus and managed to remove the icon from auction. It is now up to the Legal Services and the Antiquities Department to convince the Swiss government and arrange for the shipping of the icon back to the island,” said the statement, reminding that Cyprus and Switzerland signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 for the repatriation of stolen artefacts and holy relics.
This is not the first icon originating from the Antifonitis church that found it’s way back to the island. In 1998, another 16th century icon depicting the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child was also returned.
“We wish to thank everyone who aided in removing the icon from auction. We now wish the icon can be returned to us as soon as possible,” said the Church statement.