Photography: Adrienne Christiansen & Evangelia Matthopoulou
Grigoris Afxentiou (Γρηγόρης Αυξεντίου) statue
Machairas Golden Eagle
“Threshing floor and Machairas’ Eagle” Memorial
All three memorial pieces are dedicated to Grigoris Afxentiou, one of the most renowned EOKA 1955-59 fighters. Georgios Grivas (known by the nickname Digenis) personally recruited Afxentiou counting on the invaluable experience he had as a lieutenant in the Greek army, where he served between the years 1948 and 1952. Afxentiou was killed, trapped in his hideout in Machairas area, Troodos Mountain, after a long battle. The British soldiers burned the cave he was hidden in, after his refusal to surrender.
Today, his hideout, close to the monastery, is restored and serves as pilgrimage for Cypriots. It is not known at what point the nickname “Golden Eagle of Machairas” was attributed to Afxentiou. A version points to Georgios Grivas who supposedly called him “Golden Eagle of Pentadaktylos”. The golden eagle’s (Aquila pennata or Hieraaetus pennatus) natural environment is Pentadaktylos Mountain (in the occupied part of the island), where a certain area is also known as “aetofolia” (eagle’s nest). However, the inscription “Golden Eagle of Machairas” which decorates the pedestal of his bust at the Memorial to the Lakatamia dead and missing (Nicosia district), explicitly links the nickname with his extensive activity at Machairas and not at Pentadaktylos.
In February 2006 a museum was inaugurated at Machairas, dedicated to his life and deeds. The material used for all three pieces listed here is brass.
The initiative of Grigoris Afxentiou statue was taken by the artist Nikolaos Kotziamanis and Archbishop Chrisostomos A’, and funded by the Cypriot Church. The oversized statue (7.5 meters in height, initially planned to reach the 20 meters) is placed on a plateau adjacent to Machairas monastery. The unveiling took place on March 1st 1992. According to Kotziamanis it is aspired to “become a universal symbol of freedom and fighting spirit”.
George Kyriacou was the artist who created the golden eagle, an abstractive sculpture of 7 x 7 meters, and the “Threshing floor and Machairas’ Eagle” memorial.
The initiative for the Golden Eagle sculpture was taken in 1971 by the Cypriot Federation of Reserve Officers (POEA/ΠΟΕΑ), the Cypriot Workers Confederation (SEK/ΣΕΚ), and the Historical Archive of the Board for the Historical Memory of the EOKA 1955-59 struggle (SIMAE/ΣΙΜΑΕ). The unveiling took place on March 2nd 1997.
The “Threshing floor and Machairas’ Eagle” memorial is reminiscent of his burned body in life size. Placed in the middle of a circle 12 meters in diameter, paved with marble, it attempts an explicit and implicit reference to the mythical iconic hero of Greek tradition, Digenis Akritas, who legendarily fought with death at the “threshing floors”.
The historic events ignited an abstract, expressionistic formulation of the deformed body, which lie almost dismembered on the bare stone. The textures of the brass further underline the contrast between the materials and the wildness of the natural environment, exacerbating the dramatic feelings.
The initiative for this memorial was taken in 1997 by the Cypriot Federation of Reserve Officers (POEA/ΠΟΕΑ), the Associations of EOKA fighters, and the Cypriot Workers Confederation (SEK/ΣΕΚ).
The Cypriot Chamber of Fine Arts expressed its’ strong opposition with regard to the oversize scale of the statue. Through the press its’ members argued that it is “of barbaric nature and alien to the historical greatness of Greek art”, implying the physical scale of all ancient Greek art and architecture. The family of the dead fighter strongly supported the artist’s proposal and thus, the project was concluded.
The Golden Eagle and the monastery panoramic images are courtesy of Dr. Adrienne Christiansen.
~ Αγών (Agon), August 4, 1972, p. 3.
~ Αλήθεια (Alithia), January 28, 2009.
~ Μάχη (Mahi), January 29, 2009, p. 12.
~ Σημερινή (Simerini), March 24, 1983, p. 3.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), August 24, 1979, p. 4.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), October 28, 1989, p. 12.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), November 1, 1989, p. 18.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), November 12, 1989, p. 6
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), November 16, 1989, p. 6.
~ Φιλελεύθερος (Fileleftheros), January 30, 1990, p. 10.
~ Χαραυγή (Haravgi), June 30, 1971, p. 8.
~ Χαραυγή (Haravgi), August 4, 1972, p. 1.
~ Κρατικό Αρχείο Κύπρου, Αρχείο Πολιτιστικών Υπηρεσιών Υπουργείου Παιδείας & Πολιτισμού (State Archive of Cyprus): 268/1968/9, document May 19, 1970.
~ Κρατικό Αρχείο Κύπρου, Αρχείο Πολιτιστικών Υπηρεσιών Υπουργείου Παιδείας & Πολιτισμού (State Archive of Cyprus): 268/1968/13, document August 2, 1995.
~ Historical Archive of the Board for the Historical Memory of the EOKA 1955-59 struggle, 17.1.2002, vol. 1-2, documents October 1, 2002; February 22, 2002; February 2, 2009; Meeting Minutes January 12, 2006; June 26, 2008; November 6, 2008; January 29, 2009.
~ Historical Archive of the Board for the Historical Memory of the EOKA 1955-59 struggle, 17.94.7, vol. 7, document March 15, 2005.
~ Historical Archive of the Board for the Historical Memory of the EOKA 1955-59 struggle, 17.2009.10, document February 25, 2009; Meeting Minutes February 12, 2009.
~ Historical Archive of the Board for the Historical Memory of the EOKA 1955-59 struggle, 17.2009.11, document May 12, 2009.