Memorial to the “Pankyprio Gymnasium” dead students

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Artist: Nikos Dymiotis 

Location: Pankyprio high school, Nicosia. Nicosia district 

Material: Marble

Category: ΕΟΚΑ 1955-59

Photography: Evangelia Matthopoulou

The initiative for the memorial was taken in 1964 by the Pankyprio (Pan Cypriot) high school teachers’ 1959 association. The cost was covered through the Pankyprio students’ contributions. The unveiling took place on April 3rd 1965.

“Pankyprio Gymnasium” was founded by Archbishop Kyprianos in 1812 and is the oldest high school in Cyprus. Its initial name was “Greek School” until 1896, and had always been the reference point of the union (énosis) ideology. 

The memorial dedicated to the high school’s dead students can be considered as the epitome of that ideology in aesthetic terms. The commemorative stele imitates the funeral reliefs at the ancient cemetery of Keramikos, in Athens. Three figures participate in the scene. An archaic female winged figure, symbolic representation of glory, motherland, or victory holds a laurel wreath, ready to place it on the head of the young boy. Her iconic archaic facial features, the headdress, the long carefully draped chiton and the stylized, stiff posture of the body in full frontal creates a sharp contrast with the mother and the son. Both of them are depicted in profile; they wear their ordinary clothes and their gestures lack, comparatively, in ritual conventionality. 

The rather aged woman behind the young boy maintains an ambiguous identity: she seems to be his mother, but the broken chain on her right wrist implies also the enslaved motherland. 

Cypriot women are depicted in public art in their prevailing identity as mothers. They are wrapped up in the same heavy, peasant clothes and usually hold the dual identity of mother and motherland: At the Aradippou (Larnaka district) memorial to the Cypriot Mother the central figure bears many similarities to the Pankyprio woman, including the broken chains which she holds. Both visual depictions and oral narrations in Cyprus intentionally preserve this ambiguity, exacerbating the emotional charge and rendering malleable their concepts: Women dignify their own existence and the role of motherhood by giving birth to future fighters and heroes and by willingly teaching them the sacrificial duty. Vice versa the fighters defend their motherland in the same way the will protect and defend the honor and safety of their mothers and families. 

On the base of the commemorative stele an inscription summarizes the visual narration: “To those who heroically fought for their motherland during the Greek nation struggles. This memorial commemorates the young students of the Pankyprion high school who willingly sacrificed their own life for freedom” («Τοις εν τοις απελευθερωτικοις αγωσι του Ελληνικού Έθνους υπέρ πατρίδος ηρωϊκώς αγωνισαμένοις νέοις εν τω Παγκυπρίω Γυμνασίω μαθητεύσασι και ασμένως υπέρ της ελευθερίας την ζωήν αυτών θυσιάσασι τοδε το μνημείο αφιερούται)

Selected sources:
~ Αγών (Agon), April 4, 1965, p. 1, 8.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), March 30, 1965, p. 1.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), April 5, 1959, p. 1.
~ Χαραυγή (Haravgi), April 8, 1959, p. 1.