Religious sites in Cyprus

Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque, also known as Agia Sofia Cathedralm, is the largest and oldest surviving gothic church in Cyprus possibly constructed on the site of an earlier Byzantine church. The building belongs to the pure Gothic style of the beginning of the 12th century. Due to the building’s large scale, lack of money and various historical events it took 150 years for the cathedral to be built and still, it was never completed ...
Founded: c. 1209 | Location: Nicosia, Cyprus

Bellapais Abbey Ruins

Bellapais Abbey, or 'The Abbey of Peace', is the ruin of a monastery built by Canons Regular in the 13th century. The site of the Abbey may have served the Bishops of Kyrenia as a residence, and as a place of refuge from Arab raids in the 7th and 8th centuries. The first occupants known to have settled on or near the site were the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, who had fled Jerusalem after its fall in 118 ...
Founded: 1198-1205 | Location: Bellapais, Cyprus

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque

The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque originally known as Saint Nicholas"s Cathedral and later as the Ayasofya (Saint Sophia) Mosque of Magusa, is the largest medieval building in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus. The cathedral was constructed from 1298 to 1312 and was consecrated in 1328. 'After an unfortunate episode when the current bishop embezzled the restoration fund', Bishop Guy of Ibelin bequeathed 20,000 bezants ...
Founded: 1298-1312 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Saint Lazarus Church

The Church of Saint Lazarus is a late-9th century church in Larnaca. According to Orthodox tradition, sometime after the Resurrection of Christ, Lazarus was forced to flee Judea because of rumoured plots on his life and came to Cyprus. There he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first Bishop of Kition (present-day Larnaca). He is said to have lived for thirty more years and on his death was buried there for the sec ...
Founded: c. 890 AD | Location: Larnaca, Cyprus

Kykkos Monastery

The Holy, Royal and Stavropegic Monastery of Kykkos is one of the wealthiest and best-known monasteries in Cyprus.It was founded around the end of the 11th century by the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081 - 1118). The monastery lies at an altitude of 1318 meters on the north west face of Troödos Mountains. There are no remains of the original monastery as it was burned down many times.
Founded: c. 1090 | Location: Paphos Forest, Cyprus

St. Francis Church

St Francis church was originally part of a Franciscan monastery, and was alongside the Royal Palace. Today it can be found close to the Venetian Palace. It consists of a three-sided apse with a small chapel off the south side. Buttressing supported the external walls. It was built in the early years of the 14th century with funding supplied by Henry II, King of Cyprus who reigned from 1285 to 1324. Henry"s reign was ...
Founded: c. 1310 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Hala Sultan Tekke

Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram is composed of a mosque, mausoleum, minaret, cemetery, and living quarters for men and women. The term tekke (convent) applies to a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, or tariqa, and may have referred to an earlier feature of the location. The present-day complex, open to all and not belonging to a single religious movement, lies in a serene set ...
Founded: 1600-1100 BC | Location: Larnaca, Cyprus

St. George of the Latins Church Ruins

St George of the Latins is the remains of one of the earliest churches in Famagusta. The exact date of construction is unknown, but evidence of a crenellated parapet where defenders could protect the church, hints that it was built at a time when the Lusignans had not yet completed the city walls. Its design was supposedly inspired by St. Chapelle church in Paris, which was built in 1241. Generally, it is thought that the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Sinan Pasha Mosque was built around 1360 (originally as Christian Church of Saints Peter and Paul), supposedly with a third of the profits of a single trading venture of one of Famagusta"s wealthiest businessmen, Simon Nostrano. it is one of the largest of the Gothic cathedrals in Famagusta, and is similar in design to St George of the Greeks, which was built around the same time. Because of its massive height, the ...
Founded: 1360 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Haydar Pasha Mosque

Haydar Pasha Mosque, the former church of St. Catherine, was built in the 14th century and it follows the southern France architectural style. The church is an elegant building comprised of a central space covered by two groin vaults. It also has an altar which ends with a three sided apse. On the apse’s northeastern side there is a two-storey building with groin vaults. On the apse’s southwestern side there i ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nicosia, Cyprus

Ayia Zoni Church

Ayia Zoni church is in the south east corner of Famagusta, close to St Nikolas" church, and is one of three remaining Byzantine churches in the area. Ayia Zoni is dedicated to the sacred belt of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, the Holy Belt was made by the Virgin Mary herself out of camel hair. It was approximately 90cm long, with little strings at the end to tie it up. Three days after she died, during her ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Apostolos Andreas Monastery

Apostolos Andreas Monastery is dedicated to Saint Andrew. The monastery is an important site to the Cypriot Orthodox Church. It was once known as "the Lourdes of Cyprus", served not by an organized community of monks but by a changing group of volunteer priests and laymen. Both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities consider the monastery a holy place. The monastery was supposedly founded here, as during ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Rizokarpaso, Cyprus

Notre Dame de Tyre

Notre Dame de Tyre is a 14th-century monastery in Nicosia. It is believed that the original church, known as the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Tyre, was founded in the 13th century as a principal convent following the fall of Jerusalem. In 1308, the Lusignan king, Henry II of Jerusalem, repaired the church after it was destroyed by an earthquake. As many of the nuns were Armenian in origin, it came under the Armenian C ...
Founded: c. 1308 | Location: Nicosia, Cyprus

Church of Archangelos Michail

The church of Archangel Michael is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the valley of Marathasa, in the village of Pedoulas. In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. According to the dedicatory inscription above the north entrance, the church was built and decorated with frescoes in 1474, with the donation ...
Founded: 1474 | Location: Pedoulas, Cyprus

Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery

Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery was founded in the 12th century, but the existing building dates back to the 1770. The monastery is dedicated to Virgin Mary or the Cypriot "Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate". Inside the monastery there is a variety of religious icons and treasures on display. One statue that attracts the most attention is of Virgin Mary, which is made of pure silver. On 15th August, a celebration is ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pano Panagia, Cyprus

Monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis

The monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis (St. John Lampadistis) is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. The exact founding date of the monastery is unknown. The katholicon (monastery church), which is dedicated to Saint Herakleidios, is dated to the 11th century. Among the wall-paintings of the narthex there is an inscription, dated to th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Kalopanayiotis, Cyprus

Panagia Church

The church of Panagia Phorbiotissa, better known as Panagia of Asinou, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. Panagia Forbiotissa used to be the katholicon (monastery church) of the Monastery of Forbion, as its name implies. According to the dedicatory inscription above its south entrance, which is dated to 1105/1106, the church was built ...
Founded: 1099 | Location: Nikitari, Cyprus

Carmelite Church Ruins

The church of St Mary of the Carmelites is situated in the north west corner of Famagusta. In the 13th century, as the Muslim armies gradually reclaimed the Holy Land, many middle eastern Christians fled to Famagusta. Although Christian, their specific beliefs differed from that of Latin or Orthodox Christians. Because of this, they tended to congregate in the same area, and here you will find churches of the Nestorians, ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Panagia tou Sinti Monastery

Panagia tou Sinti is an abandoned monastery situated on the banks of the Xeros River. The 16th century central nave is in good condition and considered one of the most important buildings of the Venetian period. In 1977 it received the Europa Nostra Award for the restoration and conservation work carried out on it.
Founded: 16th century | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

St. Anna Church

St. Anna"s church was built in the 14th century, and is thought to have been part of a monastery. It is single-aisled with two bays, and Gothic features resembling those of southern France. The walls are supported by external buttresses, between which can be seen tall windows, a typically Gothic feature. The apse is polygonal with buttresses. Originally the facade supported a belfry, but that has disappeared.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.