Cyprus Mail

Four fragments of looted frescoes repatriated (Updated)

Four fragments of religious frescoes removed from churches in the north following the 1974 Turkish invasion on Monday were handed over to the Republic in the Netherlands after they were recovered by international NGO Walk of Truth.

Two of the frescoes have been identified as belonging to the church of Panayia Absinthiotissa, a monastery at Syhari, near Kyrenia.

They are a portrayal of Virgin Mary attending the deposition of Christ and an image of a martyr.

The provenance of one of the other two frescoes is not known, but it has also been identified as Cypriot.

The monastery, founded in the 11th or 12th centuries as a Byzantine foundation, took its name from the absinth that grows in the area.

During the Ottoman years, the monastery became the property of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Transport Minister Vassiliki Anastasiadou, who travelled to the Hague to collect the frescoes, said one of them came from the church of the Virgin Mary in Assia, Famagusta.

The 15th century church was entirely lined with frescoes initially and until 1974 some were still preserved high on the east wall, portraying saints and prophets.

The iconostasis was destroyed during or after the invasion and the 17th century carved wooden cross and the frescoes were stolen.

The church is being restored by the bicommunal technical committee for culture.

More than 500 churches situated in the areas under Turkish occupation since 1974 have been destroyed, plundered and looted or turned into stables, warehouses, restaurants and hotels.

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