Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Saving Apostolos Andreas
Below is another memorandum provided to me by Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia, this time regarding the condition of Apostolos Andreas monastery, Cyprus' most important religious shrine, located at the easternmost tip of the Karpas peninsula, and which is in urgent need of restoration. The Turkish occupation authorities have been deliberately neglecting Apostolos Andreas monastery, allowing it to deteriorate as part of a policy to wipe out all traces of Greek culture and history in northern Cyprus.
(It's also worth pointing out that a couple of weeks ago on the feast day of St Andrew – 30 November – the Turkish occupation authorities refused to allow Bishop Christoforos to perform the liturgy at Apostolos Andreas. The celebrations were attended by 2,000 of the faithful, who were subject to harassment and petty humiliation by the 'police' of the occupation regime, who put on a show of force at the monastery, searching pilgrims and being present in the church itself, where they insisted on filming pilgrims and the service). [See news story here].
St Andreas Monastery, Cyprus
Apostolos Andreas monastery, built at the headland of the Karpas peninsula, on the spot where the Apostle Andrew is said to have come ashore on his way to Asia Minor and Greece in the 1st century AD, has been a major pilgrimage site for Cypriots. The monastery exists in a unique landscape that preserves its natural beauty and its rare indigenous flora. The monastery's complex is also of unique architectural interest, consisting of a composite central building at the heart of which is the church, and a group of isolated buildings positioned around a spacious square.
At the eastern end of the monastery complex is the smaller and earlier St Andreas church, built during the Lusignan period (in the 14th century). At the south end, there is a small yard surrounded by a tall stone wall for protection against the sea. At the eastern end of the church, lower than sea level, one can find the sanctified water spring, the source of which is a system of underground channels built under the earlier church. West of the earlier church, and at a higher elevation, there is the later church. This is a large building, dating back to 1851 and is a typical example of 19th century Cypriot church architecture. The buildings of this period combine elements from local architectural traditions with neo-gothic, neo-renaissance and neo-classical aspects. Along the south side of the church, there is a broad gallery with five arches.
The Management Committee of Apostolos Andreas monastery could begin immediately with the implementation of a number of restoration operations. The whole project has been designed to take place in two or three phases, while the restoration of the earlier Lusignan-era church could begin as soon as possible.
The committee is in a position to announce that all the necessary restoration and other relevant plans developed by the group of professors and experts from the University of Patras' Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering are ready, having been approved by both the church and state of Cyprus.
However, for restoration work to begin on the monastery, permission is required from the Turkish Cyprus 'authorities'. This permission has been outstanding for 10 years. The University of Patras team that will undertake the work has proven expertise in projects of restoration and has been honoured by Europa Nostra for its previous works, which include the Sinai monastery in Egypt, the Vatopedi monastery on the Holy Mountain of Athos and the Acropolis in Athens.
The following are essential before work can begin on the monastery:
a) The clearance of the monastery precincts from street vendors and traders, whose stalls and tents not only impinge on the sanctity of the site but also present an obstacle to the restoration works;
b) The use of a special drill for the soil and technical research in relation to the medieval chapel;
c) The commencement of the main works on the historic core of the monastery, i.e. the historic temple, the chapel, the adjacent cells and the immediate monastery precincts; and
d) The agreement must be safeguarded and guaranteed on the basis of European principles, so as to make certain that the works will be carried out in accordance with the adopted plan.
The proposed restoration of the monastery has as an immediate objective the protection of the high cultural and historic value of the monument in its natural surroundings, which are of unique environmental and ecological value. The monastery has for generations of Cypriots and over centuries been a holy pilgrimage site and symbol of the common heritage of the island. For the past three decades, headed by the Reverend Zacharias, the monastery has continued under difficult circumstances to try and meet the spiritual needs of Greek and Turkish Cypriots and live up to its reputation as a source of the island's collective memory.
Bishop of Karpasia, on behalf of the Committee of Karpas Communities.