A valuable 16th-century icon of the Savior on the Throne, stolen from the Church of Christ Antiphonitis in the village of Kalograia (Kyrenia district, Northern Cyprus), was returned to the Cyprus Museum. After inspection by the restorers, Minister of Transport, Communications and Public Works, Yiannis Karousos, handed over the icon to Archbishop Chrysostom of Cyprus on July 12, 2022, reports orthodoxianewsagency.gr.
The icon was one of many icons which were taken from the Antiphonitis Church at the start of the Turkish invasion in 1974.
In 2014, the image was put up for auction in Zurich. The image of the icon in the online catalog of the auction house on the Internet was accidentally seen by the director of the museum of the Kykkos monastery, who reported his find to the Archdiocese and the police.
Representatives of the Cypriot Orthodox Church collected a dossier confirming the origin of the icon, and coordinated it with all competent authorities, including the Swiss Embassy in Cyprus. Then law enforcement officers, together with the Attorney General, contacted the auction house, Schuler Auktionen, thanks to which they managed to remove the icon from the auction.
However, the image of the 16th century was returned to Cyprus only this year. This was preceded by the coordinated action of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, the police of the island state and the legal service, in close cooperation with the Church of Cyprus and the competent Swiss authorities.
“The repatriation was made possible after a long effort that has been intensified in recent years and has led to the successful completion of one of the most famous, but also complex repatriation cases,” the Department of Antiquities said in a statement.
The Savior on the Throne was very well preserved. Nevertheless, the icon was examined by restorers before being handed over to Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus. Further, the sacred image of the 16th century will be returned to the Church of Christ Antiphonitis, where it belongs.
Declared a monument of antiquity, the Church of Christ Antiphonitis (“Responding” – one of the epithets of the Savior) belongs to the type of Byzantine eight-pillar churches with a dome. It was erected in the 12th century and is the only one preserved in Cyprus in very good condition. Icons and frescoes were added later and date back to the 15th-16th centuries.