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New view of historic Cyprus church

3. southeast view of kanakaria church by david winfield 1973
The Kanakaria church by David Winfield in 1973
Exhibition features important photographs from Harvard University archives finds ELENI PHILIPPOU

An exhibition of photographs of the Church of Panayia Kanakaria from the archive of Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University, has opened in Alona, Nicosia, where it will run until early December.

The majority of the exhibited photographs were taken in 1970 by Byzantine scholar and celebrated mosaic restorer working at Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks Ernest Hawkins. He was invited to Cyprus in 1952 by director of the Antiquities Department of the then-colonial administration of Cyprus Arthur Megaw. The thorough photography that followed the completion of the work was intended to illustrate a book dedicated to the church of Panayia Kanakaria, published in 1977 by Dumbarton Oaks.

“These photos are extremely important,” say organisers, “because they provide the most complete documentation of the monument and its precious early 6th-century mosaic, prior to the Turkish invasion and its subsequent looting. The Kanakaria mosaic is of great significance for Byzantine art because it is one of the few examples that date to the pre-iconoclastic period.”

4. apse mosaic after restoration by ernest hawkins 1970
Apse mosaic after restoration by Ernest Hawkins 1970

The exhibition is hosted by the Community Council of Alona in the Andreas Argyrou event venue. It was curated by Maria Paphiti who comes from Alona and who in 2018 carried out the repatriation of the looted mosaic of Apostle Andreas of Kanakaria.

“In April 2018 I had the pleasure and immense blessing to conclude the repatriation of the smuggled mosaic of Apostle Andreas from the Church of Panayia Kanakaria,” says Paphiti. “The entire process was overseen by the late Archbishop Chrysostomos II.

“The church of Panayia Kanakaria with its emblematic mosaic, dating to around 525 AD, was conserved in the years 1952-1970 by the Dumbarton Oaks Institute of Harvard University. After the completion of the conservation, a thorough photography was carried out which was destined not only to illustrate the great volume published by Dumbarton Oaks in 1977 but above all to constitute the most important documentation that exists about the church of Panayia Kanakaria prior to the Turkish invasion and its subsequent looting. The photographs belong to the archive of Harvard University, which generously granted us the rights to reproduce them. It is worth noting that this is the first time that the photographs are presented in printed form at an exhibition.”

The exhibition aims to contribute to cultural decentralisation and to attract visitors, as well as student trips to the village of Alona. All winter long, art, history and culture enthusiasts will have the opportunity to witness these iconic images up close.


Exhibition of Photographs of the Church of Panagia Kanakaria

With photos from the archive of Harvard University. Curated by Maria Paphiti. Until December 3. Andreas Argyrou venue, Alona village. Tel: 99-380685

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