It is a well-known fact that medieval churches in Northern Cyprus have been systematically destroyed by the self-declared “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC). From various testimonies given to the Department of Antiquities and the Cyprus Government, as well as European and International institutions it seems that a number of approximately 575 orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries have been systematically pillaged, vandalized or demolished since 1974, while more than 15.000 icons of saints, innumerable sacred liturgical vessels, gospels and other objects of priceless value have been stolen from the churches. Of those 133 churches, chapels and monasteries have been desecrated, 85 churches have been converted into mosques, 41 are used as depots, dormitories or hospitals by the occupation forces or as stockyards or hay barns, the church of Agia Anastasia in Lapithos (Kyrenia region) has been converted into a luxurious hotel and the church of Panagia Chrysotrimithiotissa in Trimithi (Kyrenia region) is used as a school of fine arts. The illegal occupation regime has since the 90ties expropriated a number of churches and turned them into museums for icons in order to soothe the international public.
Out of a total of 502 registered churches and 17 monasteries in the occupied areas, mass is still celebrated in only a selected few, for the needs of the enclaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites. In the Apostle Andreas Monastery, mass is celebrated once or twice a year, subject to permission granted by the occupation regime.
Cultural Programme 2012
Already a year ago The Orthodox Church in Cyprus started to flex its muscles in order to (once again) garner attention for the plight of the many medieval churches and monasteries, which are lying derelict in the Turkish zone; as well as setting the amazing cultural heritage of Cyprus on the international agenda.
On July 1, the day the Presidency began, there was a special service in the Cathedral of Nicosia. At the same time an exhibition of a significant number of Orthodox Icons in Brussels in the Bozar museum opened as part of the official program. Later there will be an exhibition at Louvre in Paris on the Byzantine and Medieval Cyprus and in October an exhibition in Prague is scheduled to show the truly horrendous destruction of the religious heritage in the North of Cyprus (although details of this event has not been published as yet). In addition a conference in October in Nicosia on religious freedom is organised in collaboration with CEC, the Conference of European Churches. Finally the Presidency will be marked by a number of concerts of Byzantine (church) music.
Chypre anciennes. Le Dialogue des cultures.
Belgium, Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire.
Chypre médiévale : entre Byzance, l’Orient et l’Occident. Louvre.
“anThrOPOS”: Faces of People of Cyprus from prehistory to the 20th Century.
2012-05-18 – 2013-01-18
Mapping Cyprus: Crusaders, Traders and Explorers.
Bozar, Brussels 2012-06-22 – 2012-09-23