Conservation of the Church of Ayios Synesios



“The Cultural Heritage Technical Committee believes that it is the primary responsibility of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to protect the endangered cultural heritage of the island, and that it is important for these monuments to be preserved, not only because they are important symbols for both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, as well as for humanity, but also because they have an intrinsic value of their own.” (Press statement of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, 06 May 2009).

The Agreement of 21 March 2008 reached between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), paved the way for the establishment of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage (TCCH), dedicated to the recognition, promotion and protection of the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Cyprus. The Committee is supported in its work by an Advisory Board composed of archaeologists, architects, art historians and town planners from both communities. All its programmatic decisions are taken in line with the agreed principles and the task attributed to them by the two Leaders.

The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage works to provide a mutually acceptable mechanism for the implementation of practical measures for the proper preservation, physical protection and restoration (including research, study and survey) of the cultural heritage of Cyprus. The Committee believes that the protection of cultural heritage is an integral part of the ongoing process of broadening areas of cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which can most effectively be achieved through joint efforts. The protection of cultural heritage also stimulates sustainable development and mutual understanding.

An initial list of 40 sites in need of emergency care and conservation was approved by the Leaders. Additional monuments of great historical value or notable size have been added to this list. Particular attention was given to the archaeological importance of the monuments, reflecting their uniqueness, historical significance and role in society as well as their future educational role.

UNDP'S Support

Since 2010 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has assisted the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage to preserve the cultural heritage of Cyprus. UNDP directly implements and administers the Committee's conservation works and visibility efforts, hence creating a favorable environment for the non-political consideration of cultural heritage on both sides of the island. Joint monitoring visits and regular meetings with the Advisory Board of the Technical Committee are facilitated by UNDP to encourage and ensure the direct involvement in each stage of the project cycle. The direct involvement of technical teams from both communities (architects, archaeologists, engineers etc.) act, in time, as team- and confidence-building measures, allowing for increased exchange of experiences and the setting of a positive example of successful collaboration between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Moroever, UNDP provides logistical and strategic support to the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in its efforts to re-establish community links between villages and their former residents and encourage cross-community exchanges.

Project Summary

This project covers the conservation of the church of Ayios Synesios located in the Karpasia/Karpaz Peninsula.  The conservation works will involve the structural and architectural conservation of the church, as well as the drainage and landscaping works in the church courtyard. The works will provisionally also include the specialised conservation of the iconostasis, icons and other objects which constitute an inherent part of the church in the case that funds are available. The works will ensure that the church is conserved to its originality in accordance with the technical designs and drawings. The overall project will be carried out with funds from the Church of Cyprus under the self-funded projects of the TCCH.



The specific objective of the project is the conservation of the church of Ayios Synesios. The church is currently in use and is in need of urgent conservation works. Conservation of this very important religious monument shall enhance the concept of confidence-building between the two communities within the context of cultural and religious heritage.

Background information on the conservation site

The church is dedicated to Agios Synesios (Saint Synesios), who was the bishop of the city of Karpasia in the beginning of the 5th century A.D. and succeeded Philon who was the first bishop of the city. Agios Synesios was from the area and he is known for his efforts against the heresies. The church is built next to his cave, which according to legend is called "the cave of Agios Synesios." The original church is occupying the eastern half of the building. The western half is a later addition dated to the 19th century. Within the church, two phases of construction can be identified. The first phase dates back to the 11th / early 12th-century, and is constituted by a domed pier cross-in-square structure with three semi-circular apses which were built in ashlar masonry. The second phase, which dates to 1850, constitutes of the addition in the western part of the church with an octagonal dome and the western façade.  Large blind arches mark the internal articulation on the façades, while a continuous string course encircles the building halfway up the façades (surviving in good condition mainly on the north façade) except from the main apse where it runs higher up, and on which windows and niches sit. The apses have three windows each, flanked by niches under ornamental molding. The dome originally had eight windows, which are now mostly walled. A bell tower was built in the place of the south original apse in the 19th century. It is hypothesized that the church operated as the seat of the local bishopric after the abandonment of coastal Karpasia following the Arab raids of the 7th century A.D.

Expected results

  • Project designs will be reviewed and approved by all stakeholders.
  • Conservation works of the Church of Ayios Synesios and the church courtyards will be carried out and completed in accordance with the specifications, designs and contract conditions (including the specialised conservation of the iconostasis, icons and other objects which constitute an inherent part of the church in the case that funds are available).
  • Awareness will be raised about the work of the TCCH.

This project is also supported by the European Union with a financial contribution of 50,000 EUR.