Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage work saves Panagia Melandrina Church from collapse

Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage work saves Panagia Melandrina Church from collapse

The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage boasts another successful project with the completion of the emergency support measures for the church of Panagia Melandrina at Kalograia village in the Turkish occupied Kyrenia district.

Members of the press traveled to the 15th century single aisle church which is part of a monastic complex but only the church has barely survived over the years with all symbols of Christianity stripped by looters after the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the island`s northern third.

The monastery can be found about 2 kilometres west of the Kalograia village on the Kalograia-Kerynia road, close to the town of Agios Ambrosios.

Tiziana Zennaro, Programme Manager for UNDP-PFF which implements the projects chosen by the Technical Committee, said Panagia Melandrina was one of the first cultural heritage sites selected by the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.

She said the idea behind the intervention was to provide emergency support measures to safeguard the monument which was in high risk of collapse.

This project “showcases what emergency support measures are. They are indeed very difficult interventions because we operate in very precarious conditions. They can guarantee the safeguard of the monument and a longer life, when there is a high risk of collapse”.

Zennaro said Panagia Melandrina is a very practical example of what dialogue and cooperation can achieve and described the church as a “big cultural heritage tree where big branches represent big projects such as Apostolos Andreas, Othello Towers, Agios Panteleimonas and could not be blowing at the top if the tree did not have such strong roots”.

She said the church was about to collapse when work started in April 2013. The European Commission funded the full amount which was approximately 137 thousand Euros.

Greek Cypriot co-chairman of the Technical Committee Takis Hadzidemetriou said the work carried out at Panagia Melandrina is of great importance as the church “is a monument of exceptional archaeological significance.”

He remarked that if the intervention had come a bit later, “we would have been talking not of a monument but of a ruin, being incapable of doing anything apart from verifying its destruction and expressing our sorrow”.

As committee members, he said, “we are entitled to say that by coming together in trust and cooperation, we have managed to come up with the expectations of the leaders and the people as well, who want us to transmit to our children the history and the culture of Cyprus”.

The Church of Panagia Melandrina, “makes us feel particular emotion and pride. It also helps us to take on board the message that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, having managed to unite in the practical task to save our past, may also manage to unite in order to safeguard a common future”.

Turkish Cypriot Co-chairman of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage Ali Tuncay remarked “we celebrate another success of the committee. We believe there is a link between restoring a building and building up cooperation, human relations and trust. A building is more than just bricks but a link to the past and to our history, a link to the past and a door to the future.”

The main achievement of the committee, he added, is the “common good and respect of each other`s existence, identity and concerns during the decision making process” and expressed hope “that our work will widen and cover other fields for the benefit of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots”.

He thanked the leaders of the two sides because “without their support we could not finish such projects”.

Alessandra Viezzer, head of Programme Team at the EU Programme Support Office EUPSO said the Commission has been supporting the Technical Committee since its inception and has devoted to this important confidence building measure an amount of 6.7 million Euros and an additional funding will become available very shortly to further “continue on this important path”.

This project, she said, is one of many to come. This year we will see the fruit of a lot of work, of decision making and collaboration which is bearing fruit. The EU is supporting these ventures because it is not about restoring monuments, “it is about restoring bridges between communities in Cyprus, it is about contributing to the reunification, contributing to helping Cypriots who want to work and live together in their beautiful island” and to show that when there is a will there is a way.

Cultural heritage takes its place as a unifying force and not a dividing force, she added, and applauded the members of the committee in being able to weather many storms and work for the common good.

She also thanked the UNDP-PFF which is supporting the committee`s endeavours.

Architect of the project Marilia Christodoulou said the structure is one step prior to full restoration noting the church was greatly damaged and this was the only way they could prevent it from collapsing.

The monastery of Panagia Melandrina was active until 1940. The Church was most likely built during the 15th century, although archaeological remains around the monastery suggest the presence of an earlier in date settlement.

Emergency measures included general cleaning, removal of debris and vegetation from the building and inside the yard, consolidation of deteriorated masonry in order to prevent it from further collapse, control of organic growth, excavation, permanent timber structural support, and consolidation of the walls and provision of a temporary roof to prevent rainwater infiltration.