The Cyprus Church demolished several listed buildings in old Nicosia on Monday, causing a great uproar on the island.
The buildings on Isokratous Street were located on land owned by the archbishopric, near where the construction of a cathedral is currently underway.
According to the law, structures can be registered as listed if they are considered valuable in preserving the character, architectural history and cultural significance of an area.
Any construction work on a listed building requires a permit issued by the city planning and housing department.
As the buildings in question were listed, the original planning permissions issued to the archbishopric called for their complete restoration.
Cultural heritage is lost
Yet the Church decided to demolish them — even without informing the Electricity Authority to cut the power, in order to prevent any reaction.
“It saddens us whenever a part of our cultural heritage is lost,” Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said in response to the incident.
He added that one of the buildings was claimed to have been dangerous, but these claims were never substantiated and he added that the illegally-demolished buildings must be restored.
The demolition was swiftly condemned by other groups.
Assault against culture
“As an institution, the church should set an example in preserving and appreciating our architectural legacy,” the scientific and technical chamber of Cyprus (Etek) said in a statement.
Later in the afternoon, the Green Party called the event “an assault against culture”, while the Nicosia faction of Akel condemned it as “arbitrary and illegal” and “a crime against our heritage”.
After Etek and Akel strongly urged the mayor to act, Yiorkadjis announced that the municipality has been in contact with the archbishopric demanding it settle the matter in keeping with the legislation.
“Illegally demolished or altered traditional structures are to be rebuilt or restored to their original state,” he said.
The archbishopric’s cathedral project has been a controversial matter since its conception, says Cyprus Mail.
It provoked the ire of environmental groups and residents of Nicosia’s old city who argued it would increase traffic in the area and alter the character and aesthetic of the old city.
Initially rejected by the municipality’s aesthetics committee, plans called for a 26-meter (85-foot) high cathedral designed to fit between 600 and 800 churchgoers, along with underground parking.
In 2008, opponents who heckled municipal councilors who approved the project were later branded “cry-babies” by Archbishop Chrysostomos.
In 2018, the project was estimated to cost €8 million.