Archangelos Michael Church: celebrating a common heritage

Oct 13, 2017

UNDP Photo/Kerim Belet

On the 12 October 2017 more than 200 people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, joined the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, the European Commission and UNDP to celebrate the return to life one of Cyprus most important religious heritage site: the church of Archangelos Michael in Lefkonoiko/Geciktale.

The Conservation works to the Church of Archangelos Michael lasted almost 8 months and cost approx. 390,000 Euros fully funded by the European Union.

Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage representatives Mr. Ali Tuncay and Mr Takis Hadjidemetriou, Head of the European Commission Unit Cyprus Settlement Support, Structural Reform Support Service Kjarntan Bjornsson and UNDP’s Senior Programme Manager Ms. Tiziana Zennaro gave a speech at the completion ceremony.

"On this historic day I recall to my memory the first time we set eyes on the church of the Archangel Michael, a magnificent building, imposing and aesthetically pleasing, but derelict and abandoned. Fig trees had sprouted on the roof, the walls were cracked, the church was full of pigeons and, from the south wall, the Archangel was looking on the damage with great sadness – in melancholy and solitude. All of us at the Technical Committee - Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots- reacted spontaneously, saying this church must be saved. It is a monument of civilisation, a monument of history. It is a monument of Cyprus and all its people. When we were making that decision, we did not know what secrets it concealed: what treasures of art and what riches of memory it would reveal to us" recalled Mr. Takis Hadjidemetriou, Greek Cypriot Representative of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage during his speech.

"For so many years both sides mutually blamed each other for destroying their cultural heritage. While both sides spent their energy in blaming each other, cultural heritage monuments continued to deteriorate. It is now high time for us as Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to make peace with the historical monuments of this geography. All Muslim and Christian worshipping places on the island, no matter what the origin is, as well as monuments belonging to the Byzantine, Lusignan, Venetian and Ottoman and other civilisations must be our common richness and heritage." said Mr. Ali Tuncay, Turkish Cypriot Representative of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.

"I am very happily impressed today to see so many Cypriots celebrating a common history and legacy together. It makes it very clear to me that while events in our history can sometimes divide, a shared history fundamentally unites and can be the basis on which we can build a better future for all, together. Funding can help restore the buildings and monuments of the past, but only shared values can lay the foundation for a better, confident future. And we will continue our commitment. You can count on the European Union, as a loyal partner sharing your values, to protect cultural heritage and to promote confidence and trust between the communities in Cyprus." said Mr. Kjarntan Bjornsson, Head of the European Commission Unit Cyprus Settlement Support, Structural Reform Support Service.

"This Church, with its impressive arcades and its well preserved frescoes – one of which was discovered during the conservation works and is now on display here behind us - is certainly a precious element in Cyprus’ religious heritage landscape. During the conservation works, we have met here with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. We have visited the church together, explained what we were doing and listened to your concerns and recommendation. It is my firm conviction that Archangelos Michael shall be looked at with interest in the months to come as we hope a successful example of confidence building" said Ms. Tiziana Zennaro, UNDP Senior Programme Manager in Cyprus.

Traditional Cypriot dances were performed by local residents at the completion of the ceremony, joining Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in a spirit of common celebration for a redescovered  heritage.

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