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Media Watch 2003

26 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Charlie Charalambous
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 26 September 2003.
Time running out for Apostolos Andreas


THE Church has less than three weeks to give an unconditional ‘Yes’ to the restoration work aimed at saving crumbling Apostolos Andreas or the US money put up for the project will go elsewhere.

The major stumbling block is the controversial decision to demolish the guesthouses atop the monastery because the building can no longer withstand the burden of such a structure.

Any further delay will jeopardise the work by throwing it off schedule, pushing it past the time line when grant money would be available.

Moreover, the Church has left it too late to come up with an alternative plan to dispose of the much-loved guesthouses, because it would take too long to check.

Faced with an outcry from Karpass refugees, the Church has dithered for the past year over plans to restore and shore up the island’s most symbolic religious monument. The deadline given by the UN and US is October 15 for a definitive answer on whether the work should proceed or not.

Critics have questioned what right the project organisers United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) - funded by USAID - have to meddle with the monastery’s character.

Against

And the Apostolos Andreas Monastery Council said yesterday it was dead set against the removing the cells.

“We thank UNOPS in this whole effort and the American people and their government for putting up the money. Nonetheless, we have our sensitivities,” said the Council’s vice president George Christodoulou.
“The amount involved is around Q500,000, if the monastery is going to be demolished for this amount, then we prefer to lose that money. If that’s how things are,” he added

The government also has a say in the project but the UN need a “united voice” on the issue from church and state or the deal is off.

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said yesterday he hoped a compromise solution could be found between supporter and opponents of the restoration work.

“I know the discussions that exist on the issue. I hope there will be a common line so that work can go ahead in reviving the monastery,” said the spokesman.

Money made available for bicommunal projects via a USAID grant will expire in 2004, so without a response next month the UN must find another venture to invest in or the cash has to be returned.

Although not part of the original site, the guesthouses are imprinted in the minds of refugees and the post-1974 generation of Greek Cypriots. 

Unsound

For many they have become part of the charm and character of the place and losing them has become unthinkable for some.

However, experts on the project told The Cyprus Weekly that Apostolos Andreas is “structurally unsound” and falling masonry poses a real danger to pilgrims who now visit on a daily basis.

Hardcore opponents may disagree with the UN’s point of view but they have got the best in the business to help save the monastery.

Luckily, they obtained the services of the world’s leading expert in structural analysis and monuments, Giorgio Croci, a 66-year-old Italian professor famed for his work on the Tower of Pisa and restoring the earthquake damaged Basilica of Assisi. 

It is his opinion, following more than a year of analysing and monitoring the monastery’s structure, to restore and save Apostolos Andreas, the rooms must go.

Croci’s recommendation to remove the cells has been in the hands of the Church since July 2002, then a more fully comprehensive report was submitted in September 2002.

He said the objective of renovating the church is to keep it as true to the original concept as possible, unobtrusively fortifying the structure with stainless steel beams so as to make it more earthquake resistant.

Outside work on Apostolos Andreas will take up half of an estimated $6 m earmarked for a twin restoration effort encompassing the Muslim holy site of Hala Sultan Tekke at the Larnaca Salt Lake. 

There could be a situation where work on Tekke continues and Apostolos is literally left to rot. 

Making the outside structure safe and secure will cost in the region of $1m, estimates for restoring the interior have yet to be costed.

Significance

Beyond its religious significance as the spot where St. Andrew is said to have come ashore for water on a voyage from the Holy Land to Greece in the 1st century AD, the monastery has attained a symbolic resonance with the Greek Cypriot faithful. 

Landscaping and work on the ancillary buildings of the 19th century monastery has gone ahead in the mean time. 

Renowned Islamic architecture expert Saleh Lamei Mostafa is handling work on the Hala Sultan Tekke which is proceeding on schedule. 

Photo caption: 
BELL TOLLS FOR ANDREAS: Crumbling Apostolos Andreas could miss out on a much needed face lift if the Church fail to agree on a UNOPS design for the monastery."