Kanakaria Church

Boltasli, Cyprus

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.

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Boltasli, Cyprus
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Founded: 5th century AD
Category: Religious sites in Cyprus

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Soula Hadjistylli (2 years ago)
Panagia Kanakaria was built around 500 as an early Christian basilica and served as the church building of an early Byzantine settlement. This first building was a three-aisled, adobe basilica with a narthex, vestibule at the entrance on the west side and three niches on the east side. The niche mosaic was created in 530. In the mid-7th century, the building was destroyed, possibly by Muslim pirates. After a few decades, the church was rebuilt around 700, but now it used masonry pillars instead of columns for support. This second building survived the Iconoclasm of the 8th and 9th centuries without vandalism, but was destroyed by an earthquake around 1160 and only the niche remains. The building was rebuilt as a church with a dome: the nave, the narthex and the holy platform got a dome, two of them with a drum. The niche with its mosaics has now been incorporated into the new church, similar to Panagia tis Kyra in Livadia and Panagia Aggeloktistis in Kiti. A monastery was probably built around the church around this time. However, the existing monastery probably dates from the 18th century. Inside the church are preserved frescoes from the 12th, 14th and 16th centuries. The south aisle was remodeled in the 13th century and an open portico was added in front of the entrance. The central dome collapsed in 1491 due to another earthquake and was rebuilt around 1500, and the walls were embellished with many new frescoes, of which almost nothing can be seen today. Only the fresco of Panagia Kanakaria in the blind arch above the southern entrance is preserved. The bell tower was added in 1888. The church and its mosaics were restored in 1973. After the expulsion of the Greek Cypriots as a result of the Turkish invasion of 1974, the church was closed due to lack of use.
Mohammad Al-Hadrusi (3 years ago)
As you go on the Karbaz road, you will pass a village called Boltşlı, which has a monastery called Panagia Canakaria. This monastery is Byzantine and was built in the sixth century. The monastery is usually intoxicating, but if you are able to enter and you are lucky in the presence of an old man with the key, he will take care of the roar of 29 years. If you see him, listen to his stories a lot, you will be very happy, cheerful and friendly. Of course, there was a roar of mosaics that had been stolen and sold in the Soudah market in the seventies and they hoped for it, but in 2018, and now it is in the Makarios Cultural Center, Lefkosha, Cyprus.
Igor Davidov (3 years ago)
Beautiful VI century monestery. Looks abandoned but charming and calm. Hopefully it will be restored completely one day.
Kevin J. Norman (3 years ago)
Well worth a visit.... door keeper very helpful for the usual tip. Inside in poor state and mosaics looted during the war. Some recovered and in the museum in Nicosia. Well worth a visit.
Kolby Granville (3 years ago)
Pretty overgrown at this point. Still nice.
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