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Churches of Cyprus

To the casual observer, it would seem that the island of Cyprus has been shaped by Christianity – Greek Orthodox, in particular. Everywhere you look, you can see churches – from ancient churches that are on the verge of crumbling to grand monasteries that still house practicing monks, Cyprus is indeed a treasure trove of Christian architecture throughout the ages.

Amazing frescoes

Cyprus is also home to a treasure trove of some of the most important surviving Byzantine monuments in the world. The mountains of the Troodos range that rise out of the central portion of Cyprus is home ancient painted churches that feature brilliantly-preserved Byzantine murals from the 11th to 19th century.

If you’re visiting churches in Troodos, you can base yourself out of the quaint mountain village of Kakopetria. It’s got 2 quaint B&Bs (one of which has jacuzzi baths in some rooms) with excellent mountain views.

The St Nicolas Stegis church

Ten of the painted churches in Cyprus are World Heritage-listed, and among them is the Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis: the only surviving katholicon (monastery church) of an 11th century Byzantine monastery in Cyprus. This building is also known as the church with a double roof (you can just about see the older roof under the new one).

Kykkos monastery

Another church worth visiting is the Kykkos Monastery – a grand collection of buildings that is perched atop a mountain at 1,318m. While there is nothing original about this church left, people still come here in droves (there is a bus parking lot) mainly to see its collection of religious relics. The most famous of which however – the icon of the Virgin Mary – has remained under protective covering and has never been seen by anyone since the 17th century.

Kykkos monastery

You can wander around the grounds and admire its painted walls and ceilings, or the elaborately painted church where services are held. You can also check out the museum to see this wealthy church’s collection of religious relics.

While the mountains house a bulk of the heritage church sites, the coastal cities also boast some ancient monuments of their own.

Ruins at Kato Paphos

Check out the World Heritage-listed Paphos – a popular town that attracts beachgoers in droves – for its vast collection of ruins and relics.

Kato Paphos is the lower part of town which is built around an ancient harbour and Paphos Fort, and is home an archaeological area that includes a vast number of monuments that date back to the Roman period. The key attraction here is its collection of Roman mosaic floors found in the four Roman villas, along with important monuments like the Odeon and the fort of Saránta Kolónes with its arches. Sun protection is essential – there is practically no cover from the fierce sun in this archaeological park.

Paphos ruins

Just north of town is the Tomb of the Kings, another ancient site that features amazing rock-cut tombs that were created during the Egyptian and Roman occupation. There are plenty of underground tombs and rooms to explore, while above, you get a picturesque view of the ocean.

Inside a church in Paphos

In Paphos itself, the 13th century Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built over over the ruins of the largest Early Byzantine basilica on the island. Among the litter of pillars, you can see St. Paul’s Pillar, where according to tradition Saint Paul was flogged before the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.

Panagia Chrysopolitissa

Abandoned church

A walk around Paphos reveals plenty more ancient buildings – from ruins of small churches to Frankish baths – that make this town archaeologically interesting.

Church interior

Another favourite seaside town, Larnaca also has some interesting ancient sites. The most visited of which is probably the Church of St. Lazarus, which houses the tomb of St. Lazarus. In 1972, human remains were discovered in a marble sarcophagus under the altar, and were identified as part of the saint’s relics.

Larnaca St Lazarus church

This Greek Orthodox church (which also served as Roman Catholic and a mosque during the course of history) features unique baroque iconostasis woodcarving that are elaborately gold-plated.

Church at Larnaca

In the nearby village of Kiti is the famous church – Panagia Angeloktisti (meaning ‘built by the angels’) – which showcases a 6th century mosaic of the Virgin Mary standing on a jewelled pedestal holding the baby Jesus.

Larnaca Sultan Hala Tekke mosque

A rare gem in Christian Cyprus is the mosque of Hala Sultan Tekke, which is a complex of a mosque, mausoleum, minaret, cemetery and living quarters for men and women. It sits on the banks of the picturesque Larnaca Salt Lake, and in season, you can see flamingos wading in the lake.

Enjoy a Cypriot coffee

3 Responses to “Churches of Cyprus”

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