The outstanding conservation of the Armenian Church and Monastery in Nicosia, winner of a European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2015, considered Europe’s highest honour in the field, was celebrated at a special ceremony at its premises on the evening of 27 October 2015.
George Markopouliotis, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra,Paolo Vitti, Architect responsible for the restoration project, Christopher Louise, from the United Nations Development Programme – Action for Cooperation & Trust in Cyprus (UNDP-ACT), and Kathleen Ann Doherty, US Ambassador to Cyprus, addressed the audience. Funding for the restoration work was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The event brought together experts from across the island as well as people keenly interested and committed to preserving Cyprus’ cultural heritage. Androulla Vassiliou, former EU Commissioner for Culture (2010-2014), who made a major contribution to the development of an integrated approach for cultural heritage at the European level and co-hosted several award-giving ceremonies of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award, was among the guests of honour.
Architect Paolo Vitti received the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award for the rehabilitation of the Armenian Church and Monastery in Nicosia at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony on 11 June 2015 at the City Hall of Oslo in Norway. This Tuesday’s special event marked the arrival of the Award in Cyprus.
The Armenian Church and Monastery are located in the Arab Ahmet neighbourhood in the northern part of Nicosia, one of the most historic and culturally diverse areas within the walled city. 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, had suffered from 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.
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 the Armenian, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities with the opportunity to work together with international experts to preserve their common heritage.
The Awards’ Jury saw this 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 architectural element is wonderful and precious, but so is the need to restore and develop the social cohesion of the community in the city.”
The ceremony in Nicosia was organised by the European Commission Representation in Cyprus and Europa Nostra in collaboration with UNDP-Action for Cooperation and Trust.