Cyprus: what was built for war, today symbolizes peace

UNDP Photo/Kerim Belet

Martinengo Bastion is a prime example of state of the art renaissance military architecture. Little known and rarely visited it is one of the few remaining intact bastions in the far Eastern Mediterranean. The Walls of Famagusta were famous throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. They were constructed over many centuries as the city grew, changed rulers and adapted to warfare technology. They are an important record of military architecture and adaptation to changing technology and rulers. There are few such fortifications still in existence and therefore the importance of protecting and conserving them.

“If we, the walls of Famagusta are lost, the whole of the cultural heritage of Cyprus will be lost as well. Civilisation is not fragments scattered here and there, unconnected to each other. Civilisation is not a matter of give and take, it cannot be bargained for and will not accept terms and conditions. Monuments cannot be exchanged, one for another. There is only one single culture and civilisation — that, which the sequence of the ages, generations and historical events, has brought to the present day. Only if you look at it like this, as a whole, will you see it in its correct dimensions.” Takis Hadjidemetriou, Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.

UNDP Photo / Ufuk Akengin

“Cultural heritage and different cultures should no longer be factors that cause conflicts but factors that contribute to cooperation, peace and prosperous living of both communities. We are aware that we do not simply work with buildings and stones. Shape given to stone by carving it, the painting on a wall are reflections of the culture, emotions, thinking and conviction of the person creating it. In carrying out our work, we do respect this. Also, whether secular or built for religious purposes, these monuments have a special value for us. These are spaces where some of us have worshipped in; where we said farewell to our beloved when they passed away or where we celebrated their birth. Or some of us have walked on the Famagusta walls in our youth and dreamed about the future.” Ali Tuncay, Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.

UNDP Photo/Kerim Belet

“It is very inspiring to see how such a massive structure, which was originally designed for military purposes, is now helping foster peace and reconciliation. Standing here it is, thanks to the excellent restoration work, easy to imagine life between these walls hundreds of years ago. These thick walls served a defensive purpose then — separating one side from the other.

Today we witness this once defensive construction turned into a source of cooperation and unity for the members of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage.” Ms. Mary McCarthy, Director, Structural Reform Support Service, European Commission.

“Hundreds of years ago, these constructions represented war, perhaps even fear. Today, they can symbolize something entirely different. Restored through bi-communal efforts, they represent a common desire by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots for their children and grandchildren, as well as visitors from abroad, to appreciate the rich history of Cyprus.

Someone once said “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” I am sure that a lot of sweat, both literal and figurative, has gone into this project that we are witnessing the unveiling of today. […]Most importantly, all of these efforts were made possible because the communities involved placed a degree of trust in one another.” Ms. Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and UNFICYP Head of Mission.

“2018 will be the European Year of Cultural Heritage. This initiative could not come at a better time for Famagusta.

By 2018 Famagusta will almost certainly have 8 of its most important cultural heritage sites conserved and returned to its communities. These 8 sites are: the Othello Tower/Citadel the conservation of which was completed with EU funding in 2015, the Martinengo Bastion and the portion of the Walls between Arsenal and Seagate which we are celebrating today, Ravelin/Land Gate, St. Mary Church of Armenians, St Mary Church of Carmel and St. Anne Church, Mescit of Tabakhane/Tanner’s Mosque, for which conservation works will start soon. To these, we should also add Canbulat and Sea Gate for which designs will be starting soon.

A great transformation for a city that deserves a cultural life in line with its glorious past and heritage.” Tiziana Zennaro, Senior Programme Manager UNDP PMO in Cyprus.

The conservation of the Martienengo Bastion and of the Famagusta Walls between Arsenal and SeaGate are projects of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in Cyprus.

Since 2012 approximately €11.7 Million have been provided by the European Union through the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community to implement the priorities of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage for the preservation of the island-wide cultural heritage in Cyprus. The European Union is the largest contributor to the work of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in Cyprus.

For more information, please visit UNDP in Cyprus website:

Official Medium account of UNDP in Cyprus. A programme mainly funded by the European Union contributing to the peace-building process in Cyprus.