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Submitted on
March 23, 2013
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SONY
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DSC-H2
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Date Taken
Sep 2, 2009, 4:40:16 AM
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Monks, soldiers and thieves by BricksandStones Monks, soldiers and thieves by BricksandStones
This is the desolated church of Our Lady of the Wormwood called Panagia Absinthiotissa in Greek, located in the northern part of Cyprus ruled by the Turkish authorities. It was probably constructed in the Byzantine period, around the 12th C. as a religious centre of a large Orthodox monastery which continued to function under catholic crusader and the Venetian rules. In later years, when Cyprus was conquered by the Ottoman Empire the site was abandoned and left as a ruin until the 19th century when art historians visited in for the first time and recorded its surviving treasures. Among them was for example a tombstone of a Venetia lady who probably supported the Orthodox monks financially and in exchange was allowed to be buried in their church. The ruined church and surrounding monastic structures were thoroughly restored and reconstructed in 1960s when Cyprus obtained independence and Orthodox monks were invited to live in Panagia Absinthiotissa once again. It was a big project at a time but its success was short-lived. When inter-communal violence broke on Cyprus and the Turkish Army invaded the island in 1974 the monks were expelled and fled south. After Turkish soldiers left the site, the church and its nearby refectory remained unprotected and open to thieves who stripped it of everything which could be of any value and destroyed the rest. All that is left today are bare walls stripped of frescoes and covered with modern graffiti...The whole building is full of filth, empty bottles, cans, toilet paper etc. but still, to my mind at least, it represents an important monument, worthy of interest, care and another restoration.
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:iconlormet-images:
Lormet-Images Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
I actually saw this in person several years ago. You captured the felling of the place quite nicely. :)
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner May 7, 2014
Hi Lori! Sorry for late response and thank you for the comment! It see you know eastern Mediterranean very well, it is a fascinating region, I wish it would be a bit cheaper to travel there from central and north-western Europe :) To be honest I found most of the places in northern Cyprus quite depressing (except Famagusta which is an amazing city and luckily it is not as damaged as most Greek medieval sites...) but I did not want this to be visible on this photo... Rather, I wanted to show that the monastery can be beautiful again. Thank you very much for another kind comment - I appreciate them (and once again sorry for not responding earlier!)
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:iconlormet-images:
Lormet-Images Featured By Owner May 7, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
No problem about the response time, I am really bad at it myself! As to the Greeks not maintaining or refurbishing their wonderful medieval and much older sites, I could not agree with you more! I found it very strange that they would let things decay to such a degree without trying to preserve them for posterity's sake! If you thing the Greeks are bad, found Budapest Hungary to be much worse! :)
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner May 12, 2014
I am glad you are not offended, a few times someone wrote me an angry note for not responding to their comments in time and now I am worried about it. About the decay of historical monuments, of course Greece and Cyprus are struggling with financial difficulties so budgets of cultural institutions are being cut which may have negative impact on the managing of sites. However in general, Greece and Cyprus are taking care of their heritage quite well, students can visit museums in Greece for free which is amazing given that I often had to spent quite a lot of money for tickets. Entering Hagia Sophia in Istanbul for example is quite expensive. Especially if you travel with your partner. Sites in Israel are also very expensive to visit so I think Greece is actually doing quite well. The destructio of monuments in northern Cyprus is,, unfortunately caused by the Turks, especially the Turkish military. I like Turks a lot and they often have been very friendly to me but to be honest, at least on the level of the state, they do not care about historical heritage, I could write a whole essay on it. In Turkey for example there is no ministry of culture - just a department in the ministry of Tourism. The monastery on this photo was destroyed by the Turkish forces and this is the fate shared by many Christian sites in the north - they are not protected and most of their frescoes or movable artifacts have been destroyed or stolen. I am not sure what the situation in Hungary is but on Cyprus the destruction of heritage is unfortunately, taking place mainly because Turkish authorities either lack many to put an end to it, or actively participate in it. There are some Turks who try to change it, for example the previous authorities in Famagusta, but overall, there is still much that needs to be done.
Anyway, sorry for the longish rant, and thank you once again for taking your time to write and read comments - I appreciate it a lot!
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:iconlormet-images:
Lormet-Images Featured By Owner May 12, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
I have only seen a small part of Turkey and that was a long time ago. It is very sad that so much of the historical landmarks are being destroyed from either neglect, greed, or war! What will be left for future generations to enjoy and learn from? Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)
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:iconhansmar:
Hansmar Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I've seen a church like this somewhere in Thessaloniki, cramped between modern high-rise flats. Looks much better like this!
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2014
Hi Hansmar! Thank you for the comment and I am sorry for taking so long to reply. Thessaloniki is a unique place in Greece as it is the only major, Byzantine city left in the borders of modern Greece. Athens and other modern Greek cities were minor settlements in medieval period and only Thessaloniki can claim to be a proper Byzantine metropolis similar to the great Byzantine cities like Antioch.  Even though most of its old town was destroyed by fire, a high number of late antique and medieval churches survive there, including the only Byzantine medieval bath house the type of which probably served as prototype for later Ottoman baths (at least that's what I read in one of the articles on it).... Anyway, sorry for such a long response, I visited Thessaloniki recently and I am still under strong impression of that place. Once again, thank you for the comment and sorry for the late reply!
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:iconhansmar:
Hansmar Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. Yes, the old town is very nice!
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:iconlord-makro:
Lord-Makro Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014
Another tragic story from Cyprus...
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2014
Hi!Thank you for the comment and I apologize for taking so long to reply, I was out of Europe for some time and had little tie for DA...Unfortunately, this is the fate of many historical monuments in Northern Cyprus, a lot of work, money and cooperation is needed to restore and protect what is left of the rich heritage of the region - this can be done and I know people who undertake such works but it takes a lot of time and effort even to obtain permission and funding to restore and protect a single fresco - not to mention entire church or monastery - anyway, thank you for the comment -- I am glad this caught your attention and once again, sorry for the late reply! 
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