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:
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.