Archbishop Kyprianos (Αρχιεπίσκοπος Κυπριανός) bust

Αρχιεπίσκοποςn Προτομήn

Artist: Georgios Bonanos 

Location: Saint John Cathedral, Nicosia. Nicosia district

Material: Pentelic marble

Dimensions: ~3.5 meters 

Category: Cypriot Church, Union (énosis), Public sculpture before 1960 

Photography: Evangelia Matthopoulou

Archbishop Kyprianos was hanged on July 9th 1821 in Nicosia with the accusation that Cypriots disobeyed the direct order of the Turkish Sultan to stay neutral from the Greek War of Independence.The event marked the beginning of a growing separation between the two cultural and religious communities of the island.

This bust is the first public artwork in Cyprus. It was commissioned by the Patriotic Association of Cypriots in Athens and the unveiling took place on July 9th 1909. Although the bust was presented in 1901 at the Cypriot Exhibition in Athens, the unveiling was delayed for eight years due to the archbishopric crisis that broke out after the death of Archbishop Sofronios III in May 1900. 

The Archbishopric seat remained vacant until April 1909 due to a turbulent dispute that emerged between the two successor candidates, the bishop of Kition Kyrillos Papadopoulos, known for his intransigence for énosis (union) and the bishop of Kyrenia Kyrillos Vassiliou, known for his moderate and realistic policy to the British administration. The eight years confrontation divided deeply the Cypriot society and massive riots and demonstrations took place in the major cities of the island. Eventually, the bishop of Kition was elected on April 21st 1909, but his opponent recognized him as the Archbishop of Cyprus only in the beginning of 1910.  

The rivals of Kition Bishop used Kyprianos’ name during aforementioned crisis to support their arguments. As a consequence the unveiling of his bust under those circumstances would become an additional source for tension and riots. Thereof, the unveiling took place three months after the election of Archbishop Kyrillos II from Kition Bishopric. 

In 1961, after the construction of the new Archbishopric premises, the bust was removed and placed in the new Archbishopric yard. In 1987 it was moved again due to the colossal Archbishop Makarios III statue, and was placed in its current location, at the entrance of the courtyard.

The resemblance of the bust to the actual features of Kyprianos became a new reason of anxiety in the Cypriot society. The sculptor Bonanos had depicted Kyprianos’ features according to a portrait of him, kept at Machairas Monastery at Troodos Mountain. Nevertheless, many objected arguing that the lack of resemblance would raise issues of historical accuracy, artistic excellence and national ideology. 

Selected sources:
~ Fragoudis S. Georgios, Ιστορία του Αρχιεπισκοπικού ζητήματος Κύπρου, 1900-1910 (History of the Archbishopric Issue of 1900-1910), Alexandria 1911.
~ Fragoudis S. Georgios. Κυπριακή έκθεσις εν Αθήναις 1901 (The 1901 Cypriot Exhibition in Athens), K. Kokkinofta, introduction. Nicosia, 2005. 
~ Hill George, A History of Cyprus, v. IV, Cambridge 1972, pp. 577-606.
~ Katalanos Nikolaos, Κυπριακόν Λεύκωμα Ο Ζήνων (Cypriot Album Zinon), year 1st, Nicosia 1914, p. 186. 
~ Ελευθερία (Eleftheria), July, 31, 1909, p.1. 
~ Φωνή της Κύπρου (Foni tis Kyprou), September 1, 1900. 
~ Φωνή της Κύπρου (Foni tis Kyprou), July 31, 1909, p. 2. 
~ Φωνή της Κύπρου (Foni tis Kyprou), August 21, 1909, p. 3. 
~ Φωνή της Κύπρου (Foni tis Kyprou), September 25, 1909, p. 1.