|The apse of Panayia Kanakaria Church predates the rest of the church building. It is the only remnant of a 5th century early Byzantine basilica on the ruins of which the present day church was build at various epochs. Between 625-630 A.D. the apse was decorated with mosaics. Large sections of these mosaics survived up until 1979 when they were removed in a barbaric way by the Turks to be sold abroad. The Turks exported illegally these mosaics from Cyprus.|
The main theme of the mosaics is the interpretation of the dogma of the incarnation of God. For this and within a traditional landscape, which is represented with palm trees and other broad-leaved plants in a gold background, the Virgin Mary is depicted with Christ on her lap sitting upon a lyre back throne and surrounded with a mandorla of light which is a characteristic of God's appearance.
To the left and to the right of virgin Mary there stood two Archangels. The Archangel who stood to the left of Virgin Mary was destroyed and only his right hand still remained. However, the upper half of the second archangel, who stood to the right of Virgin Mary was preserved. This central complex was surrounded by a broad zone consisting of 13 medallions depicting the heads of the Apostles and Christ or a cross in the centre. Out of those, 10 survived. Among them the Apostles Matthews and Jacob were depicted. Christ was depicted not as an infant, as usual, but also as a child. He sits on the lap of Virgin Mary and grasps with both hands a closed roll. Unfortunately the Turks cut Christ in two and destroyed Virgin Mary who was holding him and sold the upper half of Christ to a certain antique dealer, Mrs Goldberg, in Indianapolis, U.S.A.
The Angel to the right of the Virgin Mary was depicted in a near frontal position slightly turned to the Virgin Mary. The upper half was preserved. The Turks removed the wings, cut the lower section and sold the head and chest to the same arts dealer. Apostle Jacob was depicted bearing white hair and a rounded short beard, large eyes and a golden halo. His name is written in two columns to the right and left of the head in the medallion.
Apostle Matthew is depicted as a youth, bearing a short chestnut hair and beard and with large almond-shaped eyes. As in the case of Jacob, his name is was written in two columns in the medallion which enveloped his head. Both these medallions with the faces of Apostles Jacob and Matthew were sold by the Turks to the same arts dealer.
The Federal Court of Indianapolis after the appeal of the Cyprus Government and the Church of Cyprus decided the return of these mosaics to their legal owner, that is the Orthodox Church at Cyprus. The decision of the Federal Court of Indianapolis was upheld by the Chicago Appellate Court to which Mrs Goldberg appealed.
Text: Athanasios Papageorghiou, Director of the Department of Antiquities.
Source: Department of Postal Services, Republic of Cyprus.