Stolen church doors return to Cyprus Orthodox Church from Japan decades after Turkish invasion

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Two ornately-decorated 18th-century doors stolen decades ago from a Cypriot church have finally arrived back on the divided island from Japan after a long legal battle.

Cyprus’s Orthodox Church formally took charge of the doors from the church of Saint Anastasios in Peristeronopigi village on Thursday.

Built in 1775, the church sits atop a cave where the saint’s grave is preserved. The carved and gilded wooden doors, painted with religious scenes, were stolen after the Turkish invasion of 1974.

They then resurfaced at the Kanazawa Art College in Ishikawa, Japan. No information has been made public on how the college acquired them.

Communications and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos said the doors’ return to Cyprus had been the result of “long and intensive efforts”.

Hundreds of frescoes, mosaics and other religious works of art were looted from churches in the north of the island, where Turkish Cypriots declared independence after the invasion.

For the best part of 50 years the Cypriot government and church authorities have fought long legal battles in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to reclaim various artefacts.

Karousos said the doors’ repatriation sent the message to antiquities smugglers and “the international ring of crooks” that “however many years go by, [Cyprus] will hunt them down, because cultural genocide cannot be tolerated anywhere in the world.”

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