MICOSIA, Cyprus – A 500-year-old Orthodox icon that was looted from a church in ethnically divided northern Cyprus has been returned to the island.
The icon of Christ enthroned, which the Cyprus Department of Antiquities dates to the late 15th to early 16th century, was presented in a ceremony last week to the head of the island’s Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos.
The icon belongs to the 12th century Christ Antiphonitis Church, located near the northern coastal town of Kyrenia.
It was one of countless icons, frescoes, mosaics and religious artifacts stolen from churches that were abandoned when a Turkish invasion in 1974 split the island between mainly Greek Orthodox Cypriots in the south and Muslim Turkish Cypriots in the north.
The invasion of Turkey had followed a set-up by supporters of union with Greece.
“Efforts to repatriate stolen artifacts continue,” said Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos, who presented the icon to the church.
The Cypriot Church traced the icon to an auction in Switzerland and Swiss police seized it in 2014. After a lengthy legal process, Swiss authorities handed over the icon last week and it was airlifted to Cyprus.
The Church of Cyprus has been trying for decades to find many religious artifacts stolen from hundreds of churches and monasteries abandoned in the north and sold abroad.
The church said the returned icon would be held by the archdiocese “until it returns to its rightful place” in Antiphonitis Church. PA
Picture credits: AP/Petros Karadjias