The historic St Apostolos Andreas monastery, located in the Karpaz peninsula in north Cyprus, has been declared open once more after an extensive repair programme lasting two years and costing 5 million Euros. The money was contributed jointly and equally by the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and EVKAF, the TRNC’s major Islamic charitable foundation.
The project, which started in September 2014, was managed by the Joint UN Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage (TCCH) as part of the ongoing United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The restoration designs for the monastery, which dates back to the 12th century, were created by the University of Patras of Greece and approved by the TCCH.
The phased works involved major structural and architectural renovations of the main church, as well as extensive electrical and mechanical repairs. Inside the church the women’s gallery was extended, and the altar, icon gallery and 58 icons fully restored. At the back of the church, a new North Arcade was constructed.
Welcoming invited guests and members of press Ali Tuncay, the Turkish Cypriot Co-Chair of the Technical Committee, said:
“It is a pleasure for us to see you here at the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, which is one of the most meaningful projects of the Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage.”
“While monuments of cultural heritage that represent people and their identity are being ruthlessly destroyed in Syria, very close to us, here we show that cultural heritage, when used correctly, has the potential to help bring different societies and cultures together.”
“As Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, we have not considered the cultural heritage monuments representing the other community to be our shared richness for years. Cultural heritage had been used for political purposes for thousands of years and shown as if belonging to a single ethnic group and culture. Rather than protecting it, the preference was to sacrifice cultural heritage for political purposes. For so many years the international community was banned from allocating cultural heritage support to one side.”
“As the Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage we followed a different path. We took big and significant steps. We did not consider cultural heritage to be a tool for blaming each other. We embraced all monuments as our shared cultural heritage regardless of their origin. We did not try to impose things on each other. We had trust in each other. We cooperated and worked as equals.
“Cyprus is an island at the crossroads of three continents, at the ‘furthermost West of East’ and ‘furthermost East of West’. All civilisations that have passed through our island with a history that exceeds 10 thousand years belong to us. Traditions and customs of all these civilisations live with us in our features.”
“Both the Apostolos Andreas Monastery & the Hala Sultan Tekke belong to all of us”
“We are the Mycenaean, Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and the Ottoman. Both the mosque and the church are ours. Both the Apostolos Andreas Monastery and the Hala Sultan Tekke belong to all of us. In short, all the monuments of all civilisations that passed through the island are our common cultural heritage and common richness. As the members of the Technical Committee we acknowledge the responsibility of preserving, sustaining this richness and handing over it to upcoming generations.”
“Apostolos Andreas Monastery has been a spot where both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots worshipped, based on their own religious beliefs, for centuries. The monastery is believed to have lead to several miracles and there are several stories being told in this respect. One story that stands out is the story of Maria and her son Pantelis. I do not know if this is a true story. But one should not expect stories that display a nation and a religious belief as evil, to serve for peace and reconciliation. For sure Saint Andreas whose language is peace and love, and helped people with miracles, would not approve of such stories being told.”
“On the other hand, we are experiencing a real miracle at the monastery since 2014. This miracle is the restoration of this significant monument with joint financing of Euros 2.5 million [each] from both Evkaf (Cyprus Evkaf Administration) and the Church of Cyprus, and the collaboration of Muslim Turkish and Greek Orthodox members of the Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage, contractors, architects, engineers and workers. This is the real miracle and this is what must be explained to people.”
“The language of religious leaders should not be that of politics. It should be that of peace, reconciliation and love, which is the language of God. Religious leaders in particular should not discriminate between people created by the same God.”
“If we want to live in peace in Cyprus, we cannot achieve this by arguing about whose suffering is bigger. Sitting on the Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage taught us that we can only be efficient if we work and produce together. We showed that we can work for the benefit of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots without imposing things on each other, without trying to take advantage and by working based on respect, equality and mutual trust.”
“I hope that the atmosphere of cooperation we established will spread in other fields of life to the benefit of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank all the former and incumbent leaders who supported our work since 2008.”
“Cultural heritage and our cultural differences shall from now on be our richness, so that they contribute to the coexistence of both communities based on cooperation, peace and prosperity and not on conflict.
On this occasion, we would also like to extend our gratitude to Evkaf (Cyprus Evkaf Administration) and the Church of Cyprus, which jointly financed the restoration of this significant monument. We shall also praise the contribution made by the Cyprus Evkaf Administration in recent years to the repairing and cleaning of tens of churches in cooperation with the Technical Committee, as well as its contribution to the restoration of Apostolos Andreas Monastery. This is a reflection of Evkaf’s culture of tolerance and respect for differences, which has prevailed for many centuries.”
“In conclusion I would like to thank the head of United Nations Development Program – Partnership for the Future, Tiziana Zennaro, and Ali Çağlar from her team,and all other architects, engineers and workers for their efforts.”
Last year, Tuncay and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Takis Hadjidemetriou, were awarded the European Citizen 2015 prize for their work in preserving the island’s cultural heritage. The respective Turkish and Greek Cypriot heads of the joint Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage have forged one of the most successful partnerships on the island, enabling dozens of heritage sites to be restored.