MPs on Tuesday expressed bewilderment as to how a 300kg church bell could have been stolen from the nine-metre tower of the 17th century Ayios Panteleimonas monastery complex in occupied Myrtou.
The House refugee committee discussed vandalism at the Kyrenia complex that was restored two years ago by the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage and the theft of one of the church bells, which had been donated to the monastery during Ottoman rule by Cypriots living in Venice.
Chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis told MPs that President Nicos Anastasiades referred to the issue in a written note he gave Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci during their meeting last week.
The Technical Committee on Crime is to hear the results of investigations into the disappearance of the bell but also vandalism on the monastery complex in a scheduled meeting next week.
The church bell was reported as stolen last November after a Turkish Cypriot visitor to the monastery noticed it was missing. Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi reported at the time that the renovated monastery and church dedicated to Ayios Panteleimonas had also been vandalised. Perpetrators had broken the doors of the monastery, and written slogans on the walls, the daily had reported. A bicommunal clean up operation in January was organised to repair some of the damage.
The committee heard that the theft most probably took place sometime between mid-October and mid-November, while vandalism took place between July 2017 and September 2018.
According to community leader of Myrtou Andreas Athanasiou, the bell “is of immeasurable historical value.” The bell was on a nine-metre tower, while a smaller one, located on another tower, some 12 metres tall, was not stolen, he said.
He said vandalism of religious monuments in the north or the government-controlled areas were condemnable.
Head of the committee, Akel’s Skevi Koukouma wondered how it was possible for a 300kg bell to have been removed from a fenced off monastery.
She said the committee expects to hear the results of the investigations into the issue.
“We condemn both the theft and the vandalism the monastery has suffered,” Koukouma said. The monastery has been restored by the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage with EU funds, she said, while other items have been stolen from there as well.
Koukouma also said that a permit ought to be given for the operation of the monastery complex so that refugees from Myrtou could visit.
Restoration of the complex, one of the flagship projects of the Cultural Heritage Commitee, was completed some two years ago.
In the wake of the Turkish invasion, the monastery had been plundered and become part of a military camp.
It 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.