Well, here I am – still trying to drag you away from those beaches! This is the perfect outing for the day you just want to escape the oppressive heat of the coast for a while. In the nearby mountains, you’ll find the respite of cool clear air – even in summer – as you search out the quaint villages and extraordinary Byzantine treasures.
In 965 AD, Cyprus was annexed by the Byzantine Empire and, up until the 16th century, many Byzantine churches were constructed in the Troodos Mountain Region.
The Churches range from small isolated structures to monastic settlements and the often simple, modest construction belies the richly decorated interior. Regardless of size, they all display architectural elements that are unique to Cyprus – including steep-pitched wooden roofs (a protective measure against snowfall) and stone walls .
The churches are in a good state of preservation and continue to be used as places of worship and for religious practices.
Most visitors are happy to just view the wonderful murals. However, the Byzantine scholar will appreciate evolving influences and the combination of Byzantine art with local painting tradition – the churches unusually contain an abundance of dated inscriptions which facilitates the recording of the chronology of the paintings.
Ten of these churches are collectively included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Trivia: The Byzantine Empire – also called the Eastern Roman Empire or simply Byzantium – existed from 330 to 1453. With its capital at Constantinople, the Empire varied in size over the centuries, possessing at one time or another, territories in Italy, Greece, the Balkans, Levant, Asia Minor, and North Africa. This was a Christian state with Greek as the official language and with its own political and religious practices, art and architecture. It was the longest-lasting medieval power, finally falling to the Ottomans in 1453.
Visiting the Churches – Practicalities
Most churches do not allow photography. There may be a shop on site in which you can purchase postcards.
There are tours available from the major resorts which include a few churches but this is not a trip for public transport. A couple of churches are located in villages but they are mostly pretty much in the middle of nowhere. With a rented car, you can explore as much or as little of the region as you wish….
Finding the Churches
They don’t appear to be that far apart on the map but it’s quite the challenge to locate all 10. Narrow, winding mountain roads make for slow progress at times. Most visitors settle for just a few from the list, depending on region of the mountains they are concentrating on…
The churches are fairly well signposted and can also be found on google maps.
Locating the churches is one thing – finding them open is a whole other ball game! On our particular trip, 3 out of the 4 were open. The website of the Dept of Antiquities (Link to the website) provides some information re opening times and keyholders(but may not be up to date). m
Phone numbers may be provided on the website which allows the option of making an appointment. They may also be listed at the actual church – the keyholder is usually either the local priest or cafe owner who will come and open up for you.
There is no entrance fee.
Agios Nikolaos Tis Stegis (Church of St. Nicholas of the Roof)
This 11th century church once belonged to a monastery complex and derives its name from its pitched timber roof that was built to protect it from the weather. It is the only surviving monastery church of its kind on the island and is covered entirely in wall paintings from the 11th to the 17th centuries.
Panagia of Podithou (closed)
This is one of four painted churches located in the village of Galata. Once belonging to a monastery, it was built in 1502 – the mural paintings are of the Italo-Byzantine style that appeared on the island towards the end of the 15th century.
Archangelos Michael at Pedoulas (photos permitted)
This church was built in 1474. Typically, it is single-aisled and has the sloping mountain roof. Because it was so small, only men were allowed to enter the main church while women accessed the loft though a side entrance.
The church is completely decorated in the local post-Byzantine style that developed prior to Venetian rule. Typically, the placement of subject matter on the walls reflects the Byzantine concept of the celestial hierarchy. On the upper level are narrative scenes from the life of Christ – often referred to as Festival Scenes as they represent the principal commemorations of the liturgical year. The lower walls, closest to the faithful, are usually adorned with depictions of saints.
A templon was a screen separating the nave from the sanctuary. The wooden one here has remained intact.
Agios Ioannis Lampadistis
As well as three churches all under a single, enormous timber roof, this complex includes monastic cells, an oil press, etc..
While you’re there….
Even if you never set foot in a church, the region is beautiful and worthy of a day away from the pool.
A network of walking trails offers breathtaking views across the mountains and, of course, this is great cycling country. If you visit in winter, you can join the skiers on the snow covered hills.
The villages, as you can imagine, ooze with charm…
Even in autumn, we could appreciate the importance of wine to the region. Here you will find the greatest concentration of wineries on the island
Before you go:
Have a look at