Cyprus welcomes home looted rare mosaic
A rare 1,600-year-old mosaic has finally returned to its home in Cyprus, more than four decades after it was looted from a church, Cypriot authorities said on Tuesday.
“The mosaic of Apostle Mark…has been repatriated to Cyprus from the Netherlands,” said the antiquities department in a statement.
“The walled mosaics of Panayia Kanakaria, dating back to the 6th century AD, are highly important works of art and among the few remaining early Christian mosaics in the world,” it added.
It was located in the Principality of Monaco by the Dutch private detective Arthur Brand, known for tracing major works of art. Dutch art historian Brand spent the past three years tracking down the stolen artefact.
Information about the mosaic - a Byzantine-era depiction of Saint Mark - was originally provided to the Cypriot Authorities in 2016 by AHEPA, a Greek - American organisation in the USA, said the antiquities department.
The relic was handed over to the Cypriot Antiquities Department and the Church of Cyprus during a ceremony at the Hague in the Netherlands on Sunday.
The sixth-century mosaic was stolen from the church of Panayia Kanakaria in northern Cyprus following the Turkish invasion in 1974. It was one of several icons looted from the church during this time and believed to be the last recovered.
The mosaic of Saint Mark, believed to have been made around 550 AD, was one of many that adorned the walls of the Panayia Kanakaria church, about 65 miles northeast of the capital, Nicosia.
“The mosaic of Apostle Markos was violently detached and stolen from the church, between 1977-79 by the Turkish looter and art dealer Aydin Dikmen, along with the rest of the mosaics depicting the Apostles and other saints,” said the department.
“The mosaics were broken down into pieces and found their way in the art markets of the world,” it added.
It was the hunt of a lifetime for Brand and one that took him across Europe, where “informants were arrested in unrelated cases” and “people got scared and disappeared,” he claimed in a post on his website.
Cypriot authorities said pieces of the mosaics have been gradually repatriated since 1983, but a few more pieces of the mosaic decoration are still missing.
“The Department of Antiquities continues its efforts to repatriate the remaining mosaics from the Church of Panayia Kanakaria, as well as all other cultural treasures illicitly removed from the occupied areas of Cyprus.”