A 6th-century mosaic fragment depicting Apostle Andrew from the Church of the Virgin Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, Cyprus, was repatriated last Monday.
On Monday 23 April 2018 a formal ceremony took place at the Great Synodical Hall of the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus in order to officially repatriate a mosaic fragment, which depicts St. Andrew in a medallion, from the Church of the Virgin of Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, Cyprus.
The mosaic dates to 525-530 A.D. and belongs to the apse of the sanctuary of the church of the Virgin of Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, a village located at the peninsula of Karpasia. The looting of the entire mosaic decoration of this early Christian Church was orchestrated by the Turkish smuggler Aydin Dikmen, following the invasion of Cyprus by Turkish troops in 1974.
Between the years 1983 and 2015, the great majority of the mosaic fragments were recovered, except from two Apostle portraits, the lower part of Christ’s figure and a smaller non-figural fragment. The most prominent of the four fragments just mentioned is the present mosaic of Apostle Andrew, which is of superb craftsmanship portraying the Apostle in a distinct, expressive manner, with long dishevelled hair, that stands out from all the other portraits. The mosaics of the Virgin Kanakaria are of immense importance in Byzantine art, as well as the world art history because they are among the few artworks that escaped the menace of iconoclasm (726-843 A.D.) and provide valuable evidence for the pre-Iconoclastic art. The looting of the Kanakaria mosaics became famous worldwide in 1989 due to the well-known legal case in Indianapolis, USA, which had a victorious outcome for the Church of Cyprus and resulted to the repatriation of four important fragments.
Following the presentation of the mosaic, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, addressed the audience. Then, His Beatitude, Archbishop Chrysostomos introduced the honorands who contributed to the repatriation of the mosaic, Messrs. Andreas Pittas, Roy Pogiatzis and Mrs. Maria Paphiti, and bestowed them with the highest honorary distinction of the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus, that is the Golden Medallion of St. Paul.
It is worth mentioning that the mosaic was located in 2014 by the art historian Maria Paphiti. The last buyer of the mosaic acquired it as part of a larger collection of artworks in 2010. He asked Maria Paphiti to prepare art historical reports for all the pieces that consisted the collection. The latter informed the owner about the origin of the mosaic and after a period of negotiation, the gentleman agreed to hand it over to the Church of Cyprus without litigation and for only a symbolic sum as a contribution towards his expenses. Dr. Andreas Pittas, president of Medochemie and Mr. Roys Poyiadjis, a Cypriot businessman based in New York, paid the compensation amount, as well as the cost of the mosaic’s restoration. The legal aspect of the procedure was overviewed and executed free of charge by the lawyer Michael Korelis.
The ceremony was concluded with a lecture by Robin Cormack, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of London, titled “Lost and Found”, that focused on several looted art treasures from Cyprus.
STATEMENTS OF THE HONOREES
Statement of Dr. Andreas Pittas
The destruction that our country suffered in 1974 and the subsequent thefts of Christian artworks by stripping off entire monasteries and churches will forever stigmatize Turkey and its prolific thieves with the darkest colours.
The mosaic of Apostle Andrew from the Basilica of Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, dating to 525 A.D. – an artwork of the highest archaeological value, beauty and significance – is repatriated thanks to the efforts of Cypriot scientists, namely in this instance of Maria Paphiti, who spent a lot of time and efforts to regain it. The payment for its release and restoration was made by us with great joy.
Yet another brilliant piece of Cypriot culture and Christian heritage finally returns to his homeland.
Dr. Andreas Pittas
Statement of Mr. Roys Poyiadjis
“I was born in Famagusta and on my 9th birthday on August 14th 1974 I became a refugee in my own country. I feel it is our duty and national responsibility to protect our cultural artefacts from anyone who attempts to diminish our heritage and I believe we are the custodians of our heritage for future generations. Today is a day of celebration for Greek Cypriots who suffered a loss of their national heritage. Let this day be a day when we Greek Cypriots can rejoice in knowing that no matter how many years go by we will persist and prevail in protecting our culture and identify. I am very honoured to be part of this effort and it is my sincere pleasure to have assisted in this repatriation”
Founder of Platinum Capital Partners Inc
Statement of Mrs. Maria Paphiti
I consider myself blessed and honoured for having located and worked for the repatriation of the important mosaic of Apostle Andrew, from the church of Panagia Kanakaria. The return of the mosaic to Cyprus was made possible with the financial support of Dr. Andreas Pittas and Mr. Roys Poyiadjis, while the legal services pertaining to the process were offered free of charge by the lawyer, Mr. Michael Korelis. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to His Beatitude the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos, who entrusted and supported us throughout the process. The repatriation of Apostle Andrew’s mosaic, an artwork of 525-530 A.D. is of great importance for the world cultural heritage. For us, the Cypriots, its repatriation signifies a special moment of religious emotion and national joy.
Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus
30 April 2018