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Cyprus' Church leader welcomes centuries-old icons repatriated from the U.S.

Cyprus' Church leader welcomes centuries-old icons repatriated from the U.S.

A group of six plundered mediaeval icons repatriated from the U.S. was welcomed back to Cyprus in a solemn ceremony attended by senior Orthodox church officials Friday.
Church bells pealed in celebration as a procession of priests carried the religious paintings into the 17th century St. John's Cathedral in Nicosia _ along a path strewn with laurel leaves.
Church leader Archbishop Chrysostomos II waited on the cathedral doorstep and kissed the icons before a special religious service.
"Today we have these holy icons with us, in our church, in the place they belong, and we will be happy to soon see them in the places they were taken from," Chrysostomos said.
The paintings, which date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, were returned to the Church of Cyprus earlier this month after an agreement with the California-based Charles Pankow American Foundation.
Church officials say they proved ownership of the artifacts, but paid the Pankow foundation US$160,000 (euro124,000) for their maintenance and safekeeping.
In the Christian Orthodox faith, icons _ pictures of Christ, the Virgin or saints painted on wood _ are considered a consecrated form of art that is part of the worshipping service.
One of the icons, a 13th century depiction of Saints Andronikos and Athanasia, was stolen from a chapel in the village of Kalopanayiotis, on the Troodos mountain, in 1936.
The origin of two others, the Mother of God and Archangel Gabriel _ dating from the 13th century and 15th or 16th century _ has not been determined.
"We don't know from which church in Cyprus they come from but they are definitely Cypriot," said Neofytos, Bishop of Morphou. "The style proves that."
The three other icons, dated between the 13th and 14th centuries, were last seen in Kyrenia _ now part of a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state formed after the 1974 Turkish invasion that divided the island into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north.
Scores of religious artifacts, including icons and mosaics, were plundered from Greek Cypriot churches in the north after the invasion, which followed a failed coup by supporters of union with Greece. Many have since appeared on the international art market.


Updated : 2021-07-24 17:11 GMT+08:00