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 Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.