This week Unesco added the Cypriot and Greek Byzantine chant to their Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“As a living art spanning more than 2,000 years, the music system of the Byzantine chant is a significant cultural tradition that originated in the Byzantine Empire,” the Unesco report said.
While church attendance has decreased in recent years, and public attitudes to religion are gradually shifting – the church still retains great influence. Many non-religious people still listen to the chants due to their spiritual significance.
Others are less impressed. “It’s a droning dirge,” said Charlie Papacharalambous who lives next to a church in Nicosia. “My spirits sink on a Sunday morning when it’s amplified out onto the streets by loudspeakers.”
Cyprus is no newcomer to Unesco’s cultural heritage list.
In 2009 Lefkara lace (or Lefkaritika) was added to the list. The tradition of lace-making in the village of Lefkara dates back to at least the fourteenth century.
In 2011 the lively, impromptu oral “tsiattista poetic duelling” was also added. Famous throughout Cyprus and Crete, people try to out-do each other with clever verses made up of rhyming couplets.
In 2013 the Mediterranean diet was added, acknowledging Cyprus’ and many other southern Europeans nations world-famous healthy diet.
Cyprus’ art of dry stone walling was also recognised in 2018 by the Unesco list of intangible cultural heritage.