Four Cypriot frescoes were delivered by Mrs. T. Hadjitofi to the Minister for Transport, Communications and Works Mrs. V. Anastasiadou, at a ceremony that was held at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Hague, in order to be repatriated to Cyprus.
The frescoes depicting the faces of a male martyr and of a female figure come from the Monastery of “Panagia Apsinthiotissa”, in the occupied village of Synchari, and date back to the 12th century. The fresco of an elderly prophet originates from the temple of Virgin Mary in Assia, which lies in the old cemetery. So far, we haven’t been able to identify the occupied monument where the fourth fresco depicting an ascetic figure (perhaps Saint Savvas) used to be. All the frescoes were cut off from their respective monuments, after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and were then illegally exported to be sold on the black market in the West. They were bought by a Canadian collector and were handed over to Mrs. Hadjitofi, in order to be repatriated to Cyprus. Minister Anastasiadou addressed the event, giving an outline of the history of the frescoes and of the actions taken by the Cypriot state to achieve the repatriation of our stolen cultural heritage. She thanked Mrs. Hadjitofi and the N.G.O. “Walk of Truth” for the repatriation of the artifacts. Mrs. Hadjitofi presented some important partners of “Walk of Truth” (such as R. Polak, D. Burrows and others), as well as the aims and accomplishments of her foundation. The Church of Cyprus and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, legal owners of the frescoes, were represented by Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis and Archimandrite Fr. Nektarios Ioannou. After providing some information on the history of the frescoes, His Grace Porfyrios thanked everyone who had helped, in any way, for their repatriation. He concluded his speech by wishing that we may soon experience a further blessing: the restoration of these works of art to the religious monuments where they were originally placed and consecrated by our devout ancestors.
(Full text of H.G. Porfyrios’ address :)
“On behalf of the Church of Cyprus and of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, we would like to express our immense joy and satisfaction for this blessed moment of the repatriation of 4 frescoes from the desecrated and looted cultural heritage of our fatherland. Each time that we repatriate one of the thousands of our stolen religious artifacts―an integral part of our cultural heritage and tradition―we are in fact restoring a missing tile from the exquisite mosaic that is our Greek Orthodox culture.
As you know, two of the four frescoes date back to the 12th century and originate from the byzantine monastery of “Panagia Apsinthiotissa”, which lies in the occupied village of “Synchari” and belongs to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Even as we speak, that monument is suffering from the destruction that the illegal tourist industry of the occupying regime has inflicted upon its environment. Of the other two frescoes, the one depicting an elderly Saint is from the Church of Virgin Mary at the cemetery of Assia. As for the identification of the fourth Saint, we haven’t concluded yet, due to lack of evidence. However, it is certain that all of them were cut off and separated from the murals, where they belonged, and were illegally exported from the island, after the Turkish invasion, in order to be sold on the black market of art trade in the West.
As the representative of the legal owners of these cultural goods, we would like to express our gratitude to everyone with whom we have collaborated, so that we may now experience this immense joy: to the competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus: the Ambassador of the Republic Mr. Economou, the Minister for Transport, Communications and Works Mrs. Anastasiadou, and to Mrs. Hadjitofi, President of the “Walk of Truth” Foundation.
Of course, the Odyssey of these frescoes shall not end with the arrival to their birthplace. We wish and pray that we may soon be able to restore these artifacts to the original murals, from where profane hands cut them off. We would like to thank anyone who is struggling with us in this sacred battle. May Our Lord bestow upon them all blessings and their well-deserved reward.”