The church of Panagia tou Arakos is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. Panagia tou Arakos used to be the katholicon (monastery church) of a monastery bearing the same name, which seems to have been built during the second half of the 12th century, when monastic life was flourishing in Cyprus. When Vassili Barsky, a Russian monk, visited the island in 1735, the monastery was almost abandoned and was only inhabited by three monks. According to other written sources, the monastery survived until the first decades of the 19th century. Today, apart from the church, a two-storeyed monastery building survives to the north, used as the priests' residence. It is not clear however, whether it was intended for the church to be a monastic one. Initially the church may have been a private chapel.
The church is a single-aisled domed structure with a cross-shaped roof. Sometime, probably in the 14th century, it was covered with a protective timber roof with flat tiles. The steep-pitched roof extends beyond the main structure on three sides, thus forming a portico with latticed woodwork. The dome is covered by a separate wooden roof, a feature which is unique amongst the churches of Troodos. During the 18th century, the west wall was demolished and the church was extended.
The entire interior of the church is painted. According to an inscription above the north entrance, the church was decorated with the donations of Leon Afthentis in December 1192. The paintings are of exceptional quality and follow the late Comnenian style constituting the most complete series of frescoes of the Middle Byzantine period in Cyprus. Both the style and the iconographic programme express the trends of the art of Constantinople. Bearing in mind that almost nothing survives from this period in the Empire's capital, one realises how important this monument is in the history of Byzantine art.
It is believed by some that the painter is Theodoros Apsevdis, the same artist who in 1183 painted the Enkleistra of Agios Neophytos in Pafos. Two portable icons, which represent Jesus Christ and Panagia Arakiotissa and are exhibited in the Byzantine Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation in Lefkosia, come from this church and are attributed to the same painter.
The frescoes in the apse of the bema are of a different style to those in the rest of the church, and it is believed that they were painted by another artist a little earlier than 1192. A rarity worth noting is the depiction of the seven Cypriot saints painted on the semi-cylindrical apse wall. The Virgin on the blind arch above the north entrance and some other scenes were painted in the 14th century. The church was decorated for the last time in the 17th century and it is during this last phase that the Saints on the exterior north wall and the wooden iconostasis, which dates to 1673, were created.References:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.