Menil Collection to return 13th century frescoes to Cyprus
The Church of Cyprus announced the return from the US of two 13th century frescoes stolen from a church in the north of the island after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
The decision to return the frescoes was greeted by Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who stated that the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas informed the Church that it would be returning the frescoes from the Saint Themonianos Church in Lysi to Cyprus in February.
The Menil Collection acquired the frescoes, which had been stolen after the invasion of 1974, on behalf of the Church of Cyprus in 1984 and held them on loan under an agreement that ends in February 2012.
The late Archbishop Chrysostomos I had given the foundation a time extension but the current Archbishop said that the contract would not be renewed.
“We made it clear that these frescoes belong to the Church of Cyprus and should be returned”, the Archbishop said.
The return fulfills the terms of an agreement between the Church of Cyprus and the Menil Foundation, which runs the museum and which paid 520,000 dollars for the frescoes, and later 530,000 dollars more for their restoration and conservation. In exchange, the foundation was granted a long-term loan of the frescoes.
The frescoes have been exhibited in a chapel built for them on the Menil campus in Houston, which opened to the public in 1997.
Returning the frescoes to Cyprus was “always part of the reality, because we were never the owners, just the custodians and stewards,” said Josef Helfenstein, director of the Menil Collection. “I’d love for them to stay,” he added, “but at the same time this is the logical continuation of the story.”