NICOSIA — The Church of Cyprus has announced that 34 treasures that were stolen from the island’s Turkish-occupied areas, have been returned to Cyprus.
The relics were returned after a German Court of Appeals issued its final decision on the fate of the remaining 85 treasures stolen by a Turkish art smuggler after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
The treasures, including fragments of church wall paintings, icons, a manuscript of an Armenian gospel and 40 prehistoric antiquities, were found in 1997 in the possession of Turkish dealer in illicit antiquities Aydin Dikmen in apartments he maintained in Munich.
Among the artifacts, 24 are Byzantine relics and some prehistoric antiquities coming mostly from the collection of Chr. Chatziprodromou, from Ayios Epiktitos Church. Among the Byzantine relics there are three pairs of bema doors (Monastery of Antiphonitis Christ, Virgin Mary Monastery in Kantara), wall paintings from the Monastery of Antiphonitis Christ, the church of Agia Solomoni in Coma tou Yialou and the Monastery of Panagia Apsinthiotissa in Sychari. Also the treasures include a hand written manuscript of 17th century (omilario) from the Monastery of the Panagia Trooditissa, and the hand written gospel of the Armenian community of Cyprus stolen during the Turkish mutiny in 1963.
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. The Cyprus government and the church have repeatedly protested to the UN, the World Council of Churches and many other international and religious organisations.