The church of Timios Stavros tou Agiasmati is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. This church used to be the katholicon (monastery church) of a monastery bearing the same name, built towards the end of the 15th century. When Vassili Barsky, a Russian monk, visited the island in 1735, the monastery was almost abandoned and inhabited by only one monk (who was also the abbot) and a servant. According to researchers, the name 'Agiasmati' derives from the word 'Agiasma' (-atos) (sanctified water, spring or well near a church). Another interpretation is that the name is related to Agiasmati in western Asia Minor, a place related to the capture of Constantinople in 1453. It might be the case that refugees from the above area took shelter in Cyprus and later founded a monastery with the same name in the mountains of Cyprus, in commemoration of their homeland. As far as the rest of the monastic buildings are concerned, only traces of the cells survive to the south of the church.
The church is a single-aisled building with a steep-pitched timber roof covered with flat tiles. The roof extends beyond the main structure to form a portico on all four sides, a feature that is unique in Cyprus. According to an inscription, which survives on the exterior north wall above the entrance, the building was erected with the donation of a priest named Petros Peratis and his wife Pepani. Both of them are depicted on a wall-painting on the south exterior wall, offering a model of the church to Jesus with the mediation of the Virgin. The year of the church's erection is not known, but it is generally accepted that its decoration was completed in 1494. This indirectly indicates a date for the construction of the church.
The interior of the church, including the tie beams that support the wooden roof, is completely painted. These wall paintings are of particular interest since they represent a mixture of Palaiologan and local naive art, blended with Italian Renaissance influences. The painter was Philippos Goul, a hellenised Syrian Orthodox with good education. Even though his mastery of each style is different, the general impression is pleasant and sometimes quite impressive. Goul also painted the church of Agios Mamas in the village of Louvaras.
The paintings unfold in two tiers. In the upper tier multi-person scenes from the New Testament are depicted, whilst the lower tier is decorated with individual figures. The narrative cycle of the Discovery of the Holy Cross, to which the church is dedicated, is located in miniature paintings on the north blind arch. On the bema's apse, the Virgin in the type of Vlachernitissa is depicted.
Wall-paintings also survive on the external face of the west and south walls. The extensive and multi-person Last Judgment scene, which unfolds up to the far end of the gable where Jesus Christ is depicted, is worth mentioning.References:
Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.
Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.
The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.
In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.
The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.
The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.