Heidi Trautmann

106 - Sidestreets in Kyrenia - …if only the stones could speak

By Heidi Trautmann


Sidestreets has picked up the thread again with ‘Conversations in Culture’ once a month at Onar Village in Kyrenia. As from January, it will take place every last Sunday in the month, as long as the weather keeps us indoors to listen to the consistently interesting lectures which Sidestreets organises.


On December 6, we heard Dr. Michael Walsh speak on the Famagusta project which he has been pressing forward during the last years in his function as Associate Professor in the Dept. of Archaeology and Art History at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta. I truly admire his enthusiasm and passionate involvement. Please read his curriculum vitae and learn about the books he has published.



If only the stones could speak….he said during the lecture and I found it a very good title as it describes the project best. The documentary film 'The Stones of Famagusta - the story of a forgotten city' 2008, has been the forerunner which has drawn the worldwide attention and interest of people and organisations to the problem of the conservation of our world heritage. (Please find more information on the film at the end of the text). In the meantime, the Famagusta project has moved on and has attracted the serious involvement of the World Monument Fund, Global Heritage Fund, of course UNDP, UNOPS, USAID and ICOMOS. Useful reports have been written and for the second year running the World Monument Fund has uniquely once again placed the Famagusta project on their emergency Watch List, which is a very rare occurrence. There was a Round Table discussion organised by them in New York, which followed a previous one in Paris to which many important historians, researchers, politicians and organisations were invited.

To the Parisian Round Table came - besides Dr. Michael Walsh, Dr. Alan Langdale and Dan Frodsham - both the mayors of Famagusta, to speak for their Turkish and Greek communities, respectively. Another guest was there especially worthy of  mention, that was Prince Philippe of Lusignan. The room was packed full when they were shown the film. The table discussion was filmed, presenting another important document to show who had been made aware of the situation.


We learnt a lot about the slow decay over the centuries by earthquake, neglect, big health problems, business minds who sold the stones to Port Said, until it was stopped by British law in 1891. Another reason for the decay was the poverty of the handful of people who lived there, no more than 350 people within the walls. Two world wars and the poverty to follow.

We learnt about the Famagusta Antiquity Department where thousands of valuable photos are stored, still in the original, no duplicates, and no scanned copies. In the past, one of their directors had started to stabilise the monuments but now the stabilising elements are rotting away too.


But not even the many talks and reports by experts from all over the world will help to get the repair work done, repair work which is vital to prevent the stones from falling on our heads, to speak literally. From the very beginning, the Turkish Cypriot mayor, Oktay Kayalp, has supported the research work in close cooperation with the University, understanding the urgent need for a plan of action. He has helped to finance the project, that is to promote it so that the case is presented before the appropriate funding organisations; paying travel expenses; and also financing the new film “Against the Clock”, a resumé of the current state of play, of what has been done so far and what should be done in the near future.

Time is running out and the stones of Famagusta continue to dissolve, from the effects of rain and wind, and also sometimes also by human mind and hands who need the place for other projects.  A Portuguese university archaeological team visited Famagusta to examine the structural weaknesses of the stone in some buildings with the help of the most modern equipment. This measure is recorded in the film which will be given out free and sent around the world to awaken the conscience of the hitherto unconcerned or unknowing.


I found an article on the website of the International Icomos (International Council on Monuments and Sites) where some of the endangered buildings are shown, which also explains in more detail.




I will keep you informed on the project and its progress.




The Film: The Stones of Famagusta

More information about the film and Famagusta, Cyprus (including a library of still images) at: www.landofempires.com/famagusta/htm More information about efforts to conserve the city's heritage at: www.europanostra.org/newsletter/08/ENewsletter0804.html


‘The Stones of Famagusta’ is an independently-produced documentary charting the history of architecture in Famagusta, Cyprus. The film is based on intensive research and exploration of the walled city by its writer and presenter, Canadian art historian Dr. Allan Langdale, and is filmed by former BBC Producer/Director, Dan Frodsham. It charts the city’s turbulent history from the time of the crusades, through Lusignan, Genoese, and Venetian control to its siege by the Ottomans. As well as dealing in detail with such gothic masterpieces as the cathedral of St.Nicholas, it explores barely recorded gems such as the Mary of Bethlehem underground church and takes viewers inside churches and parts of the bastions that remain closed to the public. The use of aerial filming and ‘cherry-picker’ cranes provides previously unavailable views of the city’s remarkable architecture.

Since it’s release in January of this year, the film has become the focus of a revival of interest in this ‘forgotten’ city and has played an important role in efforts to put aside political divisions to begin the work of conserving its architecture. In April, the film featured at a conference in Paris hosted by Europa Nostra and the European Commission at which leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities of Famagusta pledged to work together to conserve the city’s heritage. The film also played at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California.

The project has shown just how effective documentary filmmaking can be in raising awareness about neglected heritage issues and I would be very interested to hear from anyone with similar projects in mind.

Copies of the DVD are available in PAL (Europe) and NTSC (North America) formats.
Please contact me at danfrodsham@yahoo.co.uk for more information.

More information about the film and Famagusta, Cyprus (including a library of still images) at: www.landofempires.com/famagusta/htm More information about efforts to conserve the city's heritage at: www.europanostra.org/newsletter/08/ENewsletter0804.html


Dan Frodsham
7 Kizil Hamam Sokak


Dr. Michael Walsh
Dr. Michael Walsh

Cover of the new film
Cover of the new film

Sidestreets Poster
Sidestreets Poster

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