Church of Panagia tou Arakos

Lagoudera, Cyprus

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.

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Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Cyprus

More Information

www.mcw.gov.cy
whc.unesco.org

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User Reviews

Nikolaos Tziolas (12 months ago)
very nice !
Nikolaos Tziolas (12 months ago)
very nice !
Andreas Sevastides (13 months ago)
Nice places for peace and relaxation
Andreas Sevastides (13 months ago)
Nice places for peace and relaxation
Benjamin Jackson (18 months ago)
The architecture of the church is very interesting. Especially the low roof, which is probably the first thing that'll come to your mind every time you mention it or think about it.
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