ATS pro Terra Sancta has been supporting the Christian presence on the troubled island of Cyprus for a few years. The painful and problematic divide between Greek-Cypriot Christians and Turkish-Cypriot Muslims, in addition to creating suffering among the local people, has a devastating effect on the immense cultural Christian heritage in the occupied Northern area.
Brother Carlos, who lives in Nicosia, explains the project and how the restructuring works at the Holy Land College – the oldest school on the island, founded by friars in 1646 – are progressing below.
The existing building dates back to the 1950s and currently requires urgent restructuring works, which will also help to increase the school’s capacity. It accommodates approximately 500 pupils from nursery through to secondary school.
The Holy Land College in Nicosia was first used as a school for children for the island’s parishes; it grew to be a more formal institution by 1646, becoming one of the first educational institutions in Cyprus. The island was, at the time, until the control of the Ottomans, who ruled from 1570 until the arrival of the English in 1870.
In the mid 20th century, the college was moved from Nicosia’s old town to the outskirts of the city. The Franciscan Father’s, led by Brother Massimino, then purchased land to build the new college in the region of the Acropolis. At the time, the Acropolis was located far from the city centre in a desolate region filled with caves which was not easy to access. Who would have thought that fifty years later, the ‘new city’ would have grown in precisely the area surrounding the college, thereby placing the college at the heart of the financial centre.
During the same period, the Amman College in Jordan and the Aleppo College in Syria were also built. From that time onwards, the building remained untouched but, despite the solidity of the columns and foundations, with time, work was needed to make them safer. A few years ago, planning began for building restructuring works which got underway approximately two months ago. The work has been divided up into four stages in order to coordinate with the pupils’ presence in the college and the works are due to be completed by 2014. In order to not interrupt lessons, classrooms have so far been created from unused rooms such as offices, the old infirmary and the theatre. This first stage of works will continue until the end of September.
I would like to stress that this work would not have been possible without the help of many people who have supported the Franciscan’s missions in the Holy Land. The Holy Land College community in Nicosia would like to thank you.