Antiphonitis Church in Kyrenia, North Cyprus
North Cyprus
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Antiphonitis Church

Antiphonitis Church
photo by: Esentepe Municipality

Part of a former monastery, the charming stone church of Antiphonitis (or Anthipanitis) nestles in the Kyrenia mountains, with glorious views over the North Cyprus coast. Antiphonitis Church is a fine building, made more remarkable as it was built by a 12th century monk, originally from Asia Minor. He certainly had an eye for design; inside, Antiphonitis church is simple but effective, with elegant dome supported by circular columns, arranged in an octagon. The barrel vaulted and tiled outside loggia, now open to the elements, was added in the 15th century, as was the front entrance porch. This design makes the church of Antiphonitis unique in North Cyprus. Much of Antiphonitis church is now derelict, but inside you can still see the remains of the original frescoes, plus some added in the 15th century.

The Antiphonitis Frescoes

Look up into the dome and the 15th century fresco featuring Christ Pantokrator stares back at you from the centre circle. Christ is surrounded by angels as he prepares to ascend the throne, with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist in attendance. Perhaps he still listens to people’s prayers, ad the name Antiphonitis (or Anthipanitis) means “Christ Who Responds”. On the walls, you can still see 12th century frescoes depicting the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, St Anthony, St Paul and the Archangels Gabriel and Michael.

Stolen Antiphonitis Frescoes

That the frescoes here have survived at all is a minor miracle, as thieves have tried twice to literally cut the artwork from the walls. They succeeded once, but a second attempt caused the cut wall section to crumble into pieces on the floor, proving just how delicate these works of art really are. It is estimated that after 1974, over 20,000 icons and dozens of frescoes were taken from North Cyprus churches by unscrupulous looters and sold on the international art market. The scale of the problem was revealed in 1998, when Dutch art dealer Michel van Rijn informed on his former business partner Aydin Dikman. Dikman was found to have a store of mosaics, frescoes and icons worth in excess of $40 million.  After agreeing to help the authorities, van Rijn bought four frescoes from Dikman, depicting the Last Judgment and the Tree of Jesse, which were reported missing from Anthipanitis Church in 1976 and 1979. These frescoes were recovered in 1997, when the Cypriot church also began legal proceedings in the Netherlands to recover four icons, from Antiphonitis Church. In December 1997, the frescoes finally returned to Cyprus.

Images of the Antiphonitis Frescoes

For more information and pictures of the frescoes, visit