Cyprus' religious heritage


"Religion and Politics – dealing with the cemeteries, places of worship and religious memorial places in Cyprus"

in March/April 2015 the initial project was carried out. The aim was to determine how the two ethnic groups in divided Cyprus deal with the religious heritage of the so-called "other".  The findings were presentend at the international conference "Das Mittelmeer und der Tod. Mediterrane Mobilität und Sepulkralkultur [The Mediterranea Sea and the death. Mediterrenean mobility and sepulchral culture]" in Bochum (Germany) in June 2015 and also published in the conference volume: "Zwischen Politik und Religion – Der Umgang mit den griechischen und muslimischen Grabstätten Zyperns nach der gewaltsamen Teilung der Insel 1974 [Between Politics and Religion – The handling of the Greek and Muslim Cemeteries in Cyprus after the Division of the Island in 1974]", in: A. Berner, J.-M. Henke, A. Lichtenberger, B. Morstadt, A. Riedel (eds.), [de]Das Mittelmeer und der Tod - Mediterrane Mobilität und Sepulkralkultur [de], 2016, pp. 269-295.

in October/November 2015  the sub-project 1 was started.
After the military conflict on the island of Cyprus in summer 1974, when Turkey invaded the island, many Cypriots became refugees. Up to 200.000 Greek Cypriots, who escaped from the advancing Turkish Army, left their homes in the Northern part of the island. Also, tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots became refugees when they left their original homes of residence in the south of Cyprus to seek shelter in the then Turkish occupied area. The result of the Turkish military operation was a divided and in large parts ethnically cleansed island. The division of the island along with flight and expulsion also meant that many houses, plots as well as public and cultural institutions couldn’t be used by their rightful owners. The same applies for the religious properties and goods.
The aim of this sub-project is to document the condition of the cemeteries and mosques of the Turkish Cypriots in the area controlled by the government in the Republic of Cyprus as well as the cemeteries and churches of the Greek Cypriots in the occupied area of the island.
During the first phase, more than 35 villages in the Republic of Cyprus where Turkish Cypriot religious heritage could be found have been visited and the condition of the religious places was documented. Also, more than 25 villages in the occupied area where one encounters Greek religious heritage have been visited and the religious places were documented.
The Franz-und-Eva-Rutzen-Stiftung [de] [Franz-und-Eva-Rutzen-Foundation] thankfully supported this first sub-project.

In 2016, further visits were made to extent the documentation.

In March 2017 the international conference entitled “When the cemetery becomes political – dealing with the religious heritage in multi-ethnic regions: Cyprus, Lebanon, the Balkans ... ” organised by the project manager, took place in Münster and results of the sub-project were presented and discussed (for more information on the conference see above). It is planned to publish the proceedings of the conference soon.

In May/June 2017 another working visit to Cyprus was conducted. Inter alia further field research was carried out, archives were visited and the project's topic was discussed with experts and activists.

In November/December 2017 further field research was carried out in both parts of the island, this time in cooperation with researchers from Cyprus. Furthermore, possibilities of future cooperations were sounded out (inter alia with scientific members of the University of Nicosia).

On 16 March 2018 the Institute for Interdisciplinary Cypriot Studies in cooperation with the German Foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Cyprus office) and the Department of Governance and Politics of the University of Nicosia conducted an international conference in Nicosia entitled "When the cemetery becomes political: Dealing with the religious heritage in Cyprus and its neighbouring countries".

In July 2018 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands approved the funding of a sub-project in the framework of the main project "Religion and Politics – dealing with the cemeteries, places of worship and religious memorial places in Cyprus" initiated at the Cyprus Institute in Münster in 2015.

The new sub-project with the working title "The religious heritage of Cyprus: a survey in the districts of Kyrenia and Larnaca" started on 1 September 2018 and will take a total of 10 months to complete it. The main aim of the project is the detailed documentation of the condition of the religious heritage within the boundaries of the districts of Kyrenia and Larnaca. In the Kyrenia district the Greek-Orthodox heritage will be in the centre of attention - since the Greek Cypriots were and are - in most cases - not able to use their religious places and buildings after the division of the island in 1974. In the Larnaca Distrikt the religious heritage of the Turkish Cypriots will be in the focus of interest. Most of those places haven't been used for decades due to the intercommunal strife in the 1960s and the events which led to the division of the island.