Located at the edge of a promontory overlooking the sea, near the tip of the Karpasia/Karpaz peninsula, in the northern part of Cyprus, Apostolos Andreas Monastery has always been a landmark of the island.
The monastery has been a place of pilgrimage for Cypriots as well as tourists travelling to the region for centuries. Now, thanks to a bi-communal restoration project, it is set to become a symbol of peace and co-operation between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities of Cyprus.
“Apostolos Andreas Monastery is more than a work of restoration. It represents two years of dialogue, inter-communal encounters and exchange of experiences between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots heritage professionals who worked together on this project,” explains Tiziana Zennaro, Senior Programme Manager of the UNDP Project Office in Cyprus. “Until a couple of weeks ago, if you were anywhere near the project site, you would hear Cypriot dialects mixing as Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot craftsmen, conservators, electricians, archaeologists, architects and engineers worked side by side.”
Long-awaited restoration works started in September 2014 after UNDP signed two historical contribution agreements with the Church of Cyprus and the EVKAF Administration. Apostolos Andreas Monastery has since become the first heritage conservation project in Cyprus to be fully funded by both communities.
With the additional contribution from USAID, and the commitment of a bi-communal network of heritage experts from both communities, the Apostolos Andreas Monastery is now one of UNDP’s key confidence-building projects in Cyprus.
The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, a bi-communal mechanism created in 2008 by the leaders of the two communities, is helping to rebuild peace and trust on the island through heritage conservation initiatives.
After a two-year long restoration process, the monastery is set to open for public visits soon.
Talking to local and international press during a project completion media site visit, Takis Hadjidemetrio, Greek Cypriot representative of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage said: “Together, as Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, we are sending out the message that culture has no political or religious borders. […] I am not saying that we never had problems, but we always did our work with love. What shines bright at Apostolos Andreas now, is the glory of our cooperation.”
The restoration works include the full structural and architectural restoration of the main church as well as new electrical and mechanical installations. Inside the church, the existing gallery for women (gynaikonitis) was extended, and the altar, the ambon and the iconostasis were restored together with 58 icons. On the back of the church, a new arcade was constructed. The total cost of these works was approximately 2.2 million Euro.
Ali Tuncay, Turkish Cypriot representative of the Committee, concluded: “In nearby geographies, we are watching as cultural heritage is ruthlessly destroyed. We are sending a different message: cultural heritage, when used correctly, has the potential to serve for bringing different societies and cultures together.”