Situated on the edge of Boltasli village, the church of Panaya Kanakaria dates back to the early Byzantine period. There is, however, virtually no trace of the original church. What we can see today is from the late 5th century onwards. The church is cruciform in shape, having been originally built as a colonnaded basilica. It was largely destroyed during the Arab raids of the 700s, and rebuilt. Further restoration was required after an earthquake in 1169, when it took its form as a multi-domed church. The porch was added around 1400, at the same time as the roof was strengthened. The central drummed cupola dates to the 1700s. and was probably added at the same time as a monastery was opened.
The apse, which is part of the original church, was adorned with mosaics, believed to have been made around 550, and considered to be some of the most important surviving pieces of early Christian artwork, having escaped the almost total destruction of religious images during the Byzantine Iconoclastic period from 726 to 843 AD. They consisted of the Virgin and Child, Saint James and Saint Andrew, and an Archangel.
Some time after 1979, these mosaics were looted and found their way to America via Munich, along with some other stolen works of art. In a famous court case, they wereretrieved and returned to Cyprus, where they are now on display in the Byzantine museum in south Nicosia. Outside the church, above the porch, there is a fresco of the Virgin Mary, dating to 1779.
The church is usually locked, but the key is held locally, and the church is occasionally open. However, even from the outside it is worth a visit.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.