NICOSIA - Four 16th century icons looted in 1975 from the church of Christ Antiphonitis in the occupied village of Kalograia, are now back in Cyprus.
The ancient icons of Saint Peter, Saint John, Saint Mark and Saint Paul are as from Tuesday at the Byzantine Museum, next to the Archbishopric, in the walled city of Nicosia.
The icons were handed over to the Republic of Cyprus by the Dutch government, in The Hague, on September 18.
It followed a request submitted by the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus to the Netherlands, based on the provisions of the 2007 Dutch Law on restitution of cultural goods originating from an occupied territory.
Addressing the event of welcoming the icons home, Minister of Communications and Works Tasos Mitsopoulos also said that the largest ever number of looted artifacts, including icons, murals and mosaics, is expected to be repatriated in October from Munich, Germany.
He expressed the point of view that there is a new dynamic and a positive climate internationally, which will play a positive role in facilitating efforts for the return of stolen cultural artifacts and which has given the government hope for a better cooperation between countries as regards the matter.
As for Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos, he wished that such events take place often until all icons and artifacts, religious or not, looted by the Turks are returned home.
He thanked the Dutch government and asked the representative of the Dutch Embassy to convey the Church’s thanks for amending the relevant legislation in the Netherlands, so that the icons were able to be returned.
The legislation, which was recently passed, is based on the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its First Protocol, inter alia, provides that each contracting state undertakes to return to the authorities of the state of origin cultural property which has been exported illegally from an occupied territory.
In a statement to CNA Dutch Embassy Chargé d’ Affaires Marc van der Linden, who was present at the event, said he was glad that the artifacts “were returned in the place where they belong”.
Both the Cypriot minister and the Archbishop thanked all the departments involved in the effort to repatriate the icons.