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 with the donation of Magistros Nikephoros Ischyrios, who subsequently became a monk with the name Nikolaos. The monastery was founded in 1099 and it functioned until the end of the 18th century, when it was abandoned.
The church consists of two parts: the vaulted single-aisled nave and the narthex, which is a later addition belonging to the second half of the 12th century. The narthex with its two semi-circular apses belongs to a type directly influenced by Constantinople. Already from the 12th century a steep-pitched timber roof, covered with flat tiles, sheltered the church. Today no traces of the rest of the monastic buildings survive.
The interior of Panagia Forbiotissa is entirely covered with wall-paintings, which vary in date. The earliest group is dated to 1105/1106 and it expresses the (then) latest style of the Comnenian period. These frescoes reflect the art of Constantinople, which is thought to be the artist's birthplace, and they are one of the most important groups of Byzantine art of this period. The strong influence of the Empire's capital can be explained by the fact that the prevailing geopolitical conditions of the time led Alexios Comnenos I (1081-1118) to render Cyprus his most important military base of the North-eastern Mediterranean.
Many of the original wall-paintings, dated to 1105/1106, are preserved in the apse of the Holy Bema and the west wall of the church, which must have often suffered great damages especially from earthquakes. During the 14th century, for instance, the conch of the apse collapsed and was soon after rebuilt and redecorated. At the same time the external buttresses were added and a little later, the flying buttress at the eastern end of the north wall was built.
The narthex was decorated with mural paintings soon after its erection during the second half of the 12th century, and in 1332/1333 it was redecorated following strong Frankish influences. In its iconographic programme, we distinguish the large number of donors.
In the same church there are also some later frescoes, dating to the 17th century.References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.