Europa Nostra award for renovation of Armenian church and monastery in Cyprus

The Armenian Church and Monastery in the northern part of Nicosia has won a Europa Nostra award, the European Commission said on Tuesday, the Cyprus Mail reports.

The Commission and Europa Nostra on Tuesday revealed the winners of the 2015 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, considered Europe’s most prestigious prize in the heritage field.

The 28 award winners, selected from 263 applications submitted by organisations and individuals from 29 countries, are honoured for outstanding achievements in four categories: 1) conservation, 2) research and digitisation, 3) dedicated service to heritage, and 4) education, training and awareness-raising.

The European Heritage Awards Ceremony will take place on June 11 at the Oslo City Hall and will be co-hosted by Fabian Stang, Mayor of Oslo, Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and Plácido Domingo, the renowned opera singer and President of Europa Nostra.

At the ceremony, seven of the selected winners will be named as Grand Prix laureates, receiving €10,000 each, and one will receive the Public Choice Award, chosen in an online poll conducted by Europa Nostra.

“Cultural heritage is one of Europe’s biggest assets. It brings countless cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all of us. I would like to congratulate the winners of the 2015 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, who are the perfect example of what dedicated and competent Europeans can do for heritage – but also for our European identity, contributing to a sense of belonging. We all need to keep working together to help communities and citizens take ownership of our heritage, make it part of our daily lives and preserve it for the generations to come,” said Commissioner Navracsics.

“This year’s winners are powerful examples of creativity and innovation at work for Europe’s cultural heritage. They also demonstrate that heritage matters to Europe and its citizens. We trust that, under the leadership of President Juncker and Commissioner Navracsics, the European Union’s strategy for an integrated approach to cultural heritage will be further developed and implemented,” added Plácido Domingo.

The Armenian monastery and church are located in the Arab Ahmet area of northern Nicosia.

The architectural compound comprises three Armenian school buildings, the premises of the Armenian Prelacy, an important historical mansion, courtyards and open‐air areas, all fenced by a boundary wall. The restoration of the Church aimed to preserve a masterpiece of gothic architecture that, since 1963, has suffered from misuse and neglect.

Despite several imperfect interventions over the years and its desperate condition at the onset of the project, the Church contained significant architectural and decorative elements from the original 14th century construction, including frescoes, carved bosses and capitals, tracery and metal elements belonging to the stained-glass—some of which were only discovered during the restoration. Using traditional materials and techniques and appropriate landscaping methods, the ancillary buildings and courtyard area have also been rebuilt and refurbished for appropriate use, Europa Nostra said.

The project was begun in 2007 as part of a larger peace-building effort in Cyprus. It was designed both to restore one of the most noteworthy parts of the island’s cultural heritage and to provide Armenian, Greek and Turkish Cypriots with the opportunity to work together with international experts to preserve their common heritage.

Europa Nostra said the jury saw the project as a definite success story, partly of conservation, with high quality research and meticulous conservation techniques, but also as an exercise in the even more challenging process of rebuilding a community.

The US  embassy in an announcement welcomed the news.

It said that through its partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United States Agency for International Development had funded the multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation, which Armenian Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots worked together with international experts to accomplish.  Between 2006 and 2013, architects, engineers, planners and crafts people restored the site to international standards, ensuring that it is preserved for future generations, the announcement said.

“Fundamentally, there is no greater reflection of respect than assisting others to preserve their heritage.  That respect is manifest in the work that was done at this site,” said US ambassador John Koenig in his remarks at a March 2014 event at the site, which included representatives of all of the island’s religious communities.  “The United States is a longstanding supporter of initiatives like this that demonstrate in the most tangible way how conservation and heritage can build bridges between fractured communities.  Sharing the responsibility for preserving such incredible places builds trust and, through projects like this, Cypriots are building a better, more peaceful, future.”

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