The church of Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis is the only surviving katholicon (monastery church) of an 11th century Byzantine monastery in Cyprus. The church itself is dated to the 11th century, whilst the earliest written sources that mention the monastery are dated to the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. This monastery flourished from the Middle Byzantine period up to the period of Frankish rule. It declined during the 18th century and ceased to function as a monastery by the end of the 19th century. Ever since, it seems to have functioned as a simple country church and a pilgrimage site. Apart from the church, no other monastic buildings survive today.
The church is a domed cross-in-square structure and was originally without the narthex or the timber roof which covers both the nave and the narthex. This later steep-pitched roof, which carries a type of flat tile common in the area of Troodos, gave Agios Nikolaos the nickname 'of the Roof' ('tis Stegis') at least since the 13th century. The narthex was added at the beginning of the 12th century, whilst later additions and alterations changed the original appearance of the church and often resulted in the destruction of significant wall-paintings.
The interior of the church is decorated with frescoes belonging to various periods, which cover a time span of over 600 years. This entirely painted church has justly been described as a museum of Byzantine painting. The oldest phase of the mural decoration is dated to the 11th century and it is the most important set of wall-painting which survives on the island from this period. The paintings include scenes from the Dodekaorton (the life of Jesus), the Raising of Lazarus, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, isolated figures, etc. The next phase is dated to the 12th century and it includes wall-paintings from the southwest part of the church, the narthex and elsewhere. The composition of the Forty Martyrs and the figure of Ayios Nikolaos are worth mentioning.
Most of the mural decoration of the church is dated to the 14th century. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection belong to the end of the 13th-beginning of the 14th century, whilst the Christ Pantocrator on the dome, the Prophets on the drum of the dome and the Evangelists on the four pendentives date to the 14th century. In the nave and the narthex there is a group of life size saints dated to the same period. The larger than life-size of the military Saints Theodore and George on the northwest pier are particularly impressive. Later, in the 14th century, the apse and the east and south vaults were redecorated. Some of these frescoes are now exhibited in the Byzantine Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation in Lefkosia. The same Museum also houses some significant portable icons from Agios Nikolaos the Stegis.
The last phase of the wall-paintings is dated to 1633 and it includes the Apostles Peter and Paul, who decorate the east piers supporting the dome, near the iconostasis which is also dated to the 17th century.References:
Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.
Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.
The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.
In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.
The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.
The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.