Stolen Antiquities: The Case of the Ayios Savvas Basin
October 1986 photo: The abandoned monastery of Ayios Savvas tis Karonos in the central Dhiarizos Valley, Paphos District. (Note: The earthquake damage visible on the left side of the church structure was repaired subsequent to the date of this photo.)
This magnificent example of a medieval stone-carved water basin was stolen from outside one of the several abandoned monasteries that can be found up and down the various river valleys of the Paphos District.
The Ayios Savas Basin as it was “in situ” during the 1990s before it was violently pulled out of its position and stolen.
A magnificent carved human head appeared on the basin’s centre exterior.
Close up of carved human face.
Location of stolen basin as it appears today. (Photo: May 2020)
Lower section of spring foundation as it appears today. (Photo: May 2020)
In this particular case, which occurred in the mid-1990s at Prastio-Ay Savvas tis Karonos in the central Dhiarizos Valley, somebody used violent force to pull the ancient decorated spring basin out of its position and steal it to presumably decorate their private garden somewhere.
Circumstantial Evidence and Suspects
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I used to organise small group landscape discovery excursions using 4 x 4 Land Rover vehicles for the company EXALT (EXcursion ALTernatives), I personally visited this ancient monastery two-four times per week. This basin especially was a star attraction to all the tourists who participated. I remember visiting the place on one Saturday where, as usual, we marvelled at the excellence of this piece. The very next day, a Sunday, was the first day of that Hunting/Kynigi season, meaning a huge number of people from all over the island would start driving around wildnerness and rural areas of the island, esp in the Paphos District. I re-visited the site on the next Tuesday and was shocked to find the whole basin and supporting Corinthian column capital had disappeared. Is it an accident or a coincidence that the very day or two after Hunting resumed, the basin was stolen?
I was very upset and angry that somebody would do this. At the time, I had close contacts with the Archaeological Museum at Kouklia, so I alerted Mr Onisiphoros Loukaides, Chief Archaeological Officer for Kouklia, and he personally accompanied me to the site to verify details and make a report.
Mr Onisiphoros Loucaides, Archaeological Officer of the Kouklia Museum visits the site of Ayios Savvas tis Karonos to investigate the theft of the carved stone basin.
Sadly, however, the basin was never recovered or seen again. One presumes it is now in somebody’s garden somewhere.
Personal Note: Just after all this happened, I visited Khysoroyiatissa Monastery and showed the photos included here to my dear friend, the now Makaritis Ayios Ygoumenos Dionysios. He originally came from the Dhiarizos valley village of Kedhares and he told he was greatly saddened by the theft and loss of this fantastic part of Ay Savvas Monastery. He related to me that as a young man he often would go to this site to pray, meditate and for reflection. He knew and loved this basin too…
To those who would destroy our Cultural Heritage for personal gain and profit: Think about what you do, please, before you do it!