Bloomberg News

Cyprus’s Themonianos Frescoes to Be Returned by U.S. Foundation

September 30, 2011

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Frescoes from a medieval Cypriot chapel that were acquired by the Houston-based Dominique de Menil Foundation after Turkey’s 1974 occupation of northern Cyprus are to be returned to the island.

The frescoes were taken from the 13th-century chapel of St. Themonianos, near Famagusta, and the foundation acquired them from Turkish antiquities smugglers in the 1980s with the encouragement of the Cypriot government, which wanted to prevent their destruction, according to the island’s Greek Orthodox Church.

Under a 1986 loan agreement, the foundation was permitted to keep the frescoes for a 15-year period, later extended. The accord expires in February and the frescoes will be returned because the Cypriot church has refused a further extension, Archbishop Chrysostomos told reporters in Nicosia today.

“We are prepared to offer in return 10 icons of the late 19th and early 20th century,” he said.

The frescoes will be displayed in Nicosia’s Byzantine Museum, which is run by the church.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in response to a coup inspired by the military junta then in power in Greece. “Following the invasion, all our churches were desecrated, all frescoes removed and Turkish smugglers stole antique icons and consecrated vessels,” Chrysostomos said.

--Editors: Alan Purkiss, Chris Peterson

To contact the reporter on this story: Stelios Orphanides in Nicosia at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at

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