Antiphonitis Church used to be the centre of an influential monastery. It was once the premier Byzantine monument in the Kyrenia hills. Because of its unusual design, it is thought to have been built by local artists. The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the 7th century. However the narthex to the west and the gallery to the south were added by the Lusignans in the 14th or 15th century.
The dome is placed on eight round columns which form an irregular octagon. The alter area was separated from the rest of the church by keeping two of the columns separated from the walls. Considering its features, this building is one of the finest of its kind in Cyprus to survive to the present day. The cloister arrangement in the south is a unique example of gothic stone work. However, nothing remains of the wooden upper covering or the stone parapet between the columns.
The building in its original form was fully covered with frescoes, most of which have unfortunately disappeared. Among the survivors, the Virgin Blachernitissa, with the figure of the Christ Child at her bosom and flanked by Gabriel and Michael, occupies the conch of the apse. Blachernitissa is unusual among Orthodox icons in that it is not flat, but is formed in bas relief. According to Sacred Tradition, the icon Blachernitissa was made of wax combined with the ashes of Christian martyrs who had been killed in the 6th century.
Archangel Michael is encountered once more holding a parchment script on the upper part of the detached north column. On the south-west wall of the nave the blue hooded figure of St. Anthony and the scene of the Baptism can be distinguished. On the lower half of the column on this side St. Endoxus and to the left St. Paul are placed.
Of its once vivid and notable frescoes, probably the most magnificent survivor, which can be found in the huge irregularly shaped dome, is the Christ Pandokrator. Represented inside a medallion surrounded by angels, he prepares to ascend the throne, with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist in attendance. The twelve apostles and the prophets are also present.
That the frescoes here have survived at all is a minor miracle, as thieves have tried twice to literally cut the artwork from the walls. They succeeded once, but a second attempt caused the cut wall section to crumble into pieces on the floor, proving just how delicate these works of art really are. It is estimated that after 1974, over 20,000 icons and dozens of frescoes were taken from North Cyprus churches by unscrupulous looters and sold on the international art market. The scale of the problem was revealed in 1997, when Dutch art dealer Michel van Rijn informed on his former business partner Aydin Dikman. Dikman was found to have a store of mosaics, frescoes and icons worth in excess of $40 million. After agreeing to help the authorities, van Rijn bought four frescoes from Dikman, depicting the Last Judgment and the Tree of Jesse, which were reported missing from Anthipontis Church in 1976 and 1979.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.