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16 June, 2024
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Saints Sergios & Bacchus church rises from devastation

Restored church in Famagusta district signals hope

Newsroom / CNA

Out of the ruins and devastation, the small church of Saints Sergios and Bacchus, in the Karpas peninsula, east of Neta village in Turkish occupied Famagusta district, has emerged restored, the result of the work of the Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage, proving that the restoration of cultural monuments can contribute to peace on the island. The project was funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In a location studded with ruins of a Byzantine settlement and next to the shores of the Karpas peninsula, the church of Saints Sergios and Bacchus probably dates to the 12th century.

Speaking about the completion of the project, in statements to CNA on the sidelines of the presentation of the completed project, Dr. Sotos Ktoris, co-chairman of the bi-communal Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage, said that "a 12th century church that had literally collapsed, was saved."

Praising the "excellent cooperation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," Dr. Ktoris underlined that in this effort there are no monuments of ours and monuments of the "others".

"We share with our Turkish Cypriot colleagues the same concern for all the monuments bequeathed to us by the history of this land. We share the same joy every time a monument of Cyprus is preserved.”

And we hope, he said, “that the Committee's work can contribute to strengthening the culture of understanding and mutual respect. That out of the darkness of the ruins can emerge the prospect of a more peaceful Cyprus,” he added.

Conservator of ecclesiastical heritage, Michalis Mastris told CNA that the church was in a derelict state “with collapsed walls and detached frescoes. There were frescoes, according to photographs they have seen, but "unfortunately they were removed, very likely by looters. We found only small pieces on the ground. Now we can only see some signs of frescoes on the left and right at the entrance of the church.”

He said work was done throughout the church. “We tried our best. We preserved the altar”, he noted, adding “it is very likely that its base came from a statue, probably from Salamina." When the cleaning began, he said, the altar was found because at the bottom there is a circle with a cross depicted in the middle. “The stone itself told us that it is the altar’s base,” he remarked.

Wednesday’s presentation concentrated on the work carried out to restore the church. Repairs began in September 2023 and were completed in January 2024.

According to a TCCH press release "situated southeast of the village, amidst the remnants of an ancient settlement, the Agios Sergios and Vakhos church holds a rich history dating back to the 12th century. Notably, beneath the slope to the east of the church lies a cave, potentially once utilized as a holy spring."

Additionally, it said, "fragments of sculptures found within the church ruins, believed to have been repurposed from nearby archaeological site, serving as spolia (holy altar) on the church, were also carefully treated."

"Key interventions included the removal of incompatible additions to the church, treatment of vegetation, replacement of stones, consolidation of historic gaps, and cleaning and repointing of stones," it added.

Additionally, TCCH said, "internal and external plasters were treated, floors received attention, and roof works were carried out to ensure structural integrity. Furthermore, grouting of cracks and stone stitching were carried out to safeguard against further deterioration."

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

Cyprus  |  Famagusta  |  church  |  UN

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