Düsseldorf, Germany, May 14, 2019
A small reliquary containing a piece of the sacred remains of St. Mamas of Caesarea and other saints was nearly sold at auction in Düsseldorf last month.
However, the internationally-renowned Byzantine art specialist Maria Paphitis stepped in and managed to have the item pulled shortly before it was to be auctioned on April 12, even though it had already attracted international interest and numerous bidders, reports CyprusMail Online.
The auction house then announced that the relics would be returned to their rightful owner, the Metropolis of Morphou of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus—the Monastery of St. Mamas in Morphou, more specifically.
The transfer is scheduled to take place at the auction house today, with Archimandrite Photios Joachim, representing His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou, receiving the relics. Paphitis and representatives of the Cypriot embassy in Germany and the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus will attend the public transfer.
The woman who consigned the reliquary to the auction house had been unable to trace its journey to Germany, but Paphitis learned that it had been stole, like many other art treasures and cultural artifacts, following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
Frank and Susanne Hargesheimer, the managing directors of the auction house, decided to buy the reliquary in order to gift it back to the Morphou Metropolis. Mrs. Hargesheimer explained that “Mrs. Paphitis informed us that the reliquary is an object well known in Cyprus. There is a description of it dating to 1912. And because of it is so unique I was convinced it was her. And because we do not want to deal with stolen artwork, we decided to return it. For us, art is not just something we deal with and from which we make money. Art is very important for people and their history, culture and identity,” reports Romfea.
The reliquary is in the form of a leather-bound book that opens to reveal an icon of St. Mamas riding a lion, surrounded by icons of four other saints. St. Mamas was greatly venerated in the Late Middle Ages, especially in Cyprus. It is believed that his coffin was released to the sea by his parents and floated to Cyprus.
The reliquary also contains relics of Sts. Panteleimon, Charalampos, Neophyte, Tryphon, Philip, Michael of Synnada, Polydore, and St. John Lampadistis.
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