The renovated church of Apostolos Andreas in the Karpasia peninsula in the north was handed over to the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage on Monday after the completion of its two-year restoration.
The first phase of the project was delivered to the bicommunal committee by Tiziana Zennaro, the head of the United Nations Development Programme- Partnership for the Future (UNDP-PFF), which is overseeing the four-phase restoration of the whole monastery complex according to designs drawn up by the University of Patras.
In 2013, UNDP-PFF signed two agreements worth €2.5 million each with the Church of Cyprus and the Evkaf administration, which is responsible for Turkish Cypriot properties, for the restoration of the Apostolos Andreas monastery complex. USAID also donated €25,000.
Construction work begun on September 2014 when the church’s priest, Father Zacharias Georgiou, who has been looking after the monastery since the 1974 Turkish occupation, delivered the keys to the technical committee. The work was carried out by two construction companies, one Greek Cypriot, the other Turkish Cypriot.
The church’s icons and artefacts that were removed and stored prior to the restoration have been placed back in the church which will be ready to receive pilgrims again on November 30 to celebrate the saint’s day.
“The monastery of Apostolos Andreas is not only a monument, but a symbol of Cyprus. Today is a symbol of perseverance, unity and peace,” Zennaro said.
“My most special memory of these last two years is still the day Father Zacharias opened the doors of the monastery to us,” Zennaro said. She added that Father Zacharias contributed in keeping the original character of the monastery as they took into consideration his account of the original materials and colours used in the building.
Phase one concerned the full structural and architectural restoration and upgrade of the electrical and mechanical installations of the 19th century church and the adjacent buildings including the restoration of the iconostasis and other immovable objects which are an inherent part of the church. On the back of the church, a new north arcade was constructed.
“What shines and radiates now in Apostolos Andreas is the glory of cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” said Takis Hadjidemetriou, the co-chair of the technical committee. He added that this project is a live example but also a message to the world that “in Cyprus we can all coexist with mutual respect and peace”.
He added that Apostolos Andreas was a “beacon leading Cyprus to the future”.
The Turkish Cypriot co-chair of the committee, Ali Tuncai, said that their cooperation with the contractors, architects, engineers, all Muslim Turkish Cypriots and Christian Greek Cypriots, under the joint financing of the Evkaf and the Church for the renovation of the monastery complex, was a “true miracle”.
“Our cultural heritage and cultural differences must not cause conflict but be our wealth that contributes to both communities living in peace, with prosperity and cooperation,” Tuncai said.
The monastery complex traces its roots to Apostle Andreas himself. According to legend, the monastery was built on the spot where a boat carrying the saint ran aground on rocks during a journey to the Holy Land. Natural spring water flows from the site which locals call holy water (ayazma) and consider it to have healing powers.
A small chapel was built close to the shore in the 15th century, while the church of the main monastery was erected in 1867.
Phase two, the restoration of the chapel and the fountain, is expected to begin at the beginning of 2017 and will last a year. Phase three will see the restoration of the building to the north of the church, and the final phase will involve the completion of external works below the main road and landscaping.