Byzantine Art and Architecture

Byzantine art and architecture

Byzantine art and architecture is featured widely in many churches and monasteries in Cyprus. A window mural or mural wall painting will relate a story. The frescoes were created originally for the poorer community, many of whom were unable to read and write.

The icons hold a very religious significance and some of the religious art work are even believed to possess miraculous powers. Pilgrimages are made to certain sites in order to be able to light candles and pray before the icons and some of the larger monasteries still provide overnight accommodation facilities to the pilgrims.

Fine examples of Byzantine art and architecture are displayed in churches found in the Troodos Mountains. Ten buildings are on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The churches include Asinou (south of Nikitari village, it's among the most beautiful), Panagia tou Moutoulla, Panagia tou Araka (Lagoudera), Agios Ioannis Lampadistis (Kalopanagiotis), Stavros tou Agiasmati (near Platanistassa village), Panagia Podythou (Evrychou), Archangel Michael (in Pedoulas), Timiou Stavrou (in Pelendri) and Agios Nicolaos tis Stegis (5km from Kakopetria).

religious art work


window mural mural wall painting

Kykkos Monastery
Open daily from Dawn - Dusk.
Admission is free but a small donation is appreciated.

Kykkos Monastery is the most famous and richest Byzantine monastery in Cyprus. The byzantine art and architecture on display here is second to none. The monastery was founded in 1100 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It possesses one of the three surviving icons, the Virgin Mary, said to be painted by St. Luke. The icon, a precious religious art work, having survived several fires is now covered in silver gilt and enclosed in a shrine of tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl and stands at the front of the iconostasis. Its legendary rain-making powers still bring in the farmers to pray in times of drought. The first President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III served as a novice here. At his own wish, he was buried at Throni, 3km west of the Monastery, not far from his native village of Panayia.

Kykkos Monastery

Do not be dismayed if you encounter a slow moving queue of people waiting to enter the church. These people are usually local Cypriot people who are waiting to pass directly in front of the icons, wishing to kiss the images to show their devotion. Other visitors may enter the church directly via the rear door. The example of Byzantine art and architecture at Kykkos Monastery is a memorable sight to the eye for its intense and rich decoration and ornamentation both in the form of window mural and mural wall painting. In the museum you can learn all about it's history and view some of the finest religious art work treasures. Religious fairs are held at Kykko on 15 August and 8 September.

Troodhitissa Monastery

Another glowing example of Byzantine art and aritecture, this beautiful monastery standing amid pine trees was originally founded in the 13th century. The present church, dating from 1731, contains many valuable icons including a priceless silver-plated icon of the Virgin Mary from Asia Minor. A large religious fair is held in the church grounds on 15 August.

Agios Neophytos Monastery

9kms north of Paphos is where you will find the hermitage which dates back to the 12th century. Neophytos enlarged caves that he found in the surrounding hillside with his own hands creating his own sanctuary and cell. Many miracles have been attributed to his grave in the past, which was opened in 1750.

Neofytos caves

The hermitage and main church are part of the large group of Byzantine buildings in the neo - classical style from Constantinople. In 1170, Neophytos began to paint the interior of the cave. He is himself portrayed several times in his hermitage. A visit here will not disappoint and will exhilarate any ardent Byzantine art and architecture enthusiast.

Akourdaleia Panayia Chryseleousa Church - Akourdalia

This tiny church is believed to be positioned on the site of what used to be in 6C BC, a temple to the Goddess Artemis. A church was later built dedicated to St Paul, who spent many years preaching the gospels of Christianity He was later tied to the column called St Paul's Pilla at the excavated 4th Century AD Christian Basilica, Agia Kyriaki in Kato Paphos and lashed 39 times for his preaching.

Stavrovouni Monastery

Stavrovouni Monastery is situated at the top of a rocky 600-metre peak west of Larnaka and visible for miles around. Inside Stavrovouni's 18-century church is hung a fragment of the cross, left by Saint Helena in 327 A.D. a decade after her son, Emperor Constantine, officially recognized Christianity. According to legend, Helena had discovered the three crosses on which Jesus and the two thieves had been crucified on her pilgrimage to the Holy land . She had them excavated and wanted to bring them to Constantinople. But she is said to have left one of these crosses in Cyprus during an involuntary visit caused by shipwreck, and to have presented it to a monastery.

Nobody knows what actually happened to the Holy Cross following the various invasions of the island and much was destroyed during a fire in 1888. The monastery has undergone a complete renovation in recent times and the majority of the Byzantine art to be seen refers to the Holy Cross and St Helena's life.

No women are allowed to visit Stavrovouni Monastery due to the very strict monastic life, however, this is not the case in any other churches and monasteries in Cyprus, where the Byzantine art and architecture can be enjoyed by all.

The following reading material on the subject of Byzantine art and architecture and saints from the Byzantine era is recommended for your pleasure.
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