- A CORRESPONDENT
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 Antiquities Department dates from the late 15th to early 16th centuries, was presented in a ceremony on Tuesday to the head of the island’s Orthodox Church, the Archbishop Chrysostomos.
Director of the Byzantine Museum of Cyprus, Ioannis Eliades, right, stands and speaks before a looted 500-year-old Orthodox icon of the enthroned Christ is seen at the Byzantine Museum after his return, in the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, July 12 . A 500-year-old Orthodox icon of Christ enthroned that was looted from a 12th-century church in ethnically divided breakaway northern Cyprus has been repatriated after the end of a years-long legal journey from Zurich. PHOTO: AP Photo/Petros Karadjias.
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 abandoned churches 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.