Conservation works at the 17th century Ayios Panteleimonas monastery complex in Myrtou, one of the flagship projects of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, is already underway and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
During a visit on Wednesday by the committee, the European Commission, and the United Nations Development Programme Partnership for the Future (UNDP-PFF), journalists had the opportunity to see the progress of the first four months of the work carried out at the monastery in the north.
In the wake of the Turkish invasion, the monastery church had been plundered and become part of a military camp.
The monastery was built around 1600 by two friars from the monastery of Ayios Panteleimonas from Mount Athos in Greece. Originally there was a small church and a couple of rooms but the monastery grew bigger after it became well-known for miracles.
The monastery complex consists of the church in the centre, an early 19th century fountain with holy water and buildings for community and religious activities.
In the interior of the church, wall paintings cover the walls and roof, but have been covered by lime and gypsum.
Speaking on behalf of the team of designers, Michael Pittas said that at this initial phase, works include conservation only, such as supporting structures. The next phase will focus on restoration proper.
Concrete stabs will be removed, he said, and a drainage system installed. In the monastery buildings, works include supporting the windows, doors, arches and the ceilings, while insulation will be placed on the roof to keep rain water away as this is the main threat to the buildings.
In the church, he said, the main work is to clean the surrounding area, removing plaster, repair the walls and cracks, applying more compatible coatings, while the church’s murals will be carefully uncovered.
The existing church was built in 1710, in the place of an older one. The monastery complex was renovated and expanded in the late 18th century by the then Bishop of Kyrenia, Chrysanthos.
It was considered one of the richest monasteries of the region, and played an important role in the socio-economic development of the village and the area. It was also the religious and spiritual centre of the area, and the seat of the Kyrenia Bishopric until 1917.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the monastery had 10 monks; the last one died in July 1976.
Tiziana Zennaro, programme manager for UNDP-PFF which implements the projects chosen by the technical committee, said that Ayios Panteleimonas monastery is one of its flagship projects, along with Apostolos Andreas and the Othello Tower.
Thirteen projects have been completed so far, she said, while 20 are ongoing or are about to start soon.
All this, Zennaro said, is due to the solid partnership within the technical committee and the EU. The cost of the project, which is fully funded by the European Commission, is estimated at €750,000.