Rare 13th-century frescoes are to be returned to Cyprus from an American museum where they have been exhibited for the last 28 years, the leader of the divided island’s Orthodox Christian church said on Friday.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II says the Houston-based Menil Collection agreed to return the Byzantine frescoes early next year on the church’s insistence not “to allow them to remain there even for one second longer.”

“I salute this decision by the Menil Collection because embarking on a court battle would honor neither us nor the Collection,” said the Archbishop.

Antiquities smugglers looted the frescoes from the Ayios Themomianos church in northern Cyprus following a 1974 Turkish invasion that split the island into a Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south.

Menil Collection founder Dominique de Menil obtained the frescoes in 1983, and struck an agreement with the Cyprus church to keep and exhibit them in a purpose-built chapel in Houston.

Continue Reading on www.boston.com