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Icon Museum,

Kyrenia, North Cyprus

Kyrenia icon museum
Kyrenia Icon Museum

The former Greek Orthodox church of Archangelos Mikhael now houses the Kyrenia icon museum.  The large collection on three levels offers an assortment of 17th to 19th century examples, rescued from unspecified churches in the district.

The church was built in 1860, and its bell tower, which can be seen from all over Kyrenia, added about 25 years later. The church was restored, and opened as an icon museum in 1990. There are three levels of exhibits, thanks to the use of the former women's gallery of the church.

St George and the ddragon
St George Slaying the Dragon

The icons on show have a particularly local flavour in their design, although there is no indication which church might have been the original home. The most artistically noteworthy include Saint Luke with his emblematic ox, and the beheading of John the Baptist, a  grisly scene with Herod's feast in full swing just above. Unfortunately, a rare icon of the ecumenical council of 843, which restored icon worship after the Iconoclastic period is  missing.

This ancient form of religious art used to be seen in churches all over Cyprus, and a trip to the icon museum gives a good insight into the skill and craftsmanship of their creators. Sadly, many churches were looted of their icons after 1974, and the icons sold on the international black market for religious art. It is estimated that after 1974, over 20,000 icons and dozens of frescoes were taken from North Cyprus churches by unscrupulous looters and sold on the international art market.

Display of icons
Display of Icons

The scale of the problem was revealed in 1997, when Dutch art dealer Michel van Rijn informed on his former business partner Aydin Dikman. Dikman was found to have a store of mosaics, frescoes and icons worth in excess of $40 million. After agreeing to help the authorities, van Rijn bought four frescoes from Dikman, depicting the Last Judgment and the Tree of Jesse, which were reported missing from Anthiponitis Church in 1976 and 1979. These frescoes were recovered in 1997, when the Cypriot church also began legal proceedings in the Netherlands to recover four icons from Antiphonitis Church. In July 2007, the frescoes finally returned to Cyprus. (Read the full story.)

The Icon Museum preserves local icons that were saved, and it is important that these works of art remain protected in their homeland of North Cyprus for future generations to enjoy.



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