The Menil Collection announced that after March 4, 2012, it will relinquish frescoes hung in Houston's Byzantine Fresco Chapel to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, marking the conclusion of a 28-year loan. The Menil built the chapel to house the largest collection of intact Byzantine frescoes in the Western hemisphere, which were rescued from the black market. Public events in February will commemorate the works' 15-year tenure in Texas.
The Byzantine Fresco Chapel's frescoes originate from a small 700-year-old chapel, the Church of the Blessed St. Themanianos in the village of Lysi, Cyprus. Looted and cut into 38 parts with a chainsaw, the fresco remnants were pieced together by Dominique de Menil in 1983, who, on behalf of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, purchased and restored the works.
"We are honored to have been entrusted as stewards of these extraordinary frescoes and to have exhibited them for the people of Houston and the world in a remarkable building," said Menil Director Josef Helfenstein in a press release. "The return of the frescoes to Cyprus is just one chapter in their long history.