A rare 6th century mosaic depicting St. Andrew taken from a looted church in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus in the 1970s has been returned, Archbishop Chrysostomos II said on Monday.
According to the Associated Press, the mosaic showing a bearded St. Andrew was one of several that went missing from the Church of Panayia Kanakaria after the Turkish army invaded Cyprus in 1974 and the island was split into ethnic Greek and Turkish sides.
It is among only a handful of mosaics to have survived a period during the 8th and 9th centuries when many Orthodox icons were destroyed, AP says.
The Archbishop of Cyprus said that the rarity made the work a symbol of Cyprus’ “stolen heritage.”
Most of the Kanakaria Church mosaics have now been repatriated with the exception of one of St. Luke. A Turkish art dealer was arrested a quarter-century later for selling the mosaic and others from Kanakaria Church, as well as artworks from other churches.
Greek Cypriot art dealer Maria Paphiti located the St. Andrew mosaic in 2014 in London after another dealer asked her to verify the origin. When the dealer was informed that the mosaic belonged to the Cyprus Church, he agreed to return it as long as his expenses were covered, according to AP.
Paphiti reached out to Greek Cypriot businessmen Roys Poyiadjis and Andreas Pittas for help covering the cost of the mosaic’s repatriation, which came to €50,000 euros ($61,200.)