Painted Churches in the Troodos Area (World Heritage)

By | September 25, 2021

The ten churches from the 11th to 17th centuries impress with their colorful Byzantine and post-Byzantine frescoes as well as their special architecture with tiled gable roofs to protect against snow and rain.

Painted Churches in the Troodos Area: Facts

Official title: Painted churches in the Troodos area
Cultural monument: nine Byzantine churches: Stavros tou Agiasmati near Platanistasa, Panagía tou Araka in Lagoudera, the Church of St. Cross (Timios Stavros) in Pelendri, Ágios Nikolaos tis Stegis near Kakopetria, Panagía Podithou near Galata, Panagía tis Asinou near Nikitari, Ágios Ioannis Lampadistis in Kalopanagiotis, Panagía tou Moutoulla in Moutoullas and Archoulangelos Michail in Moutoullas and Archoulangelos Michail
Continent: Europe
Country: Cyprus
Location: Troodos Mountains, southwest of Nicosia
Appointment: 1985
Meaning: one of the important centers of Byzantine and post-Byzantine fresco painting

Painted Churches in the Troodos Area: History

11-17 Century Paintings of the church
1192 Panagía tou Araka frescoes
1280 Panagía tou Moutoulla
13.-15. Century Monastery of St. Johannes Lampadistis
14th century Church of St. Cross
1502 Panagía Podithou
2nd half of the 15th century extensive fresco cycle in Stavros tou Agiasmati
1474 Archangel Michael Church
1502 Panagia Podithou

Hidden beauty under the barn roof

The contrast could hardly be greater: If you approach one of the small, inconspicuous churches with their irregular masonry made of quarry stone and the weathered wooden shingles on the pointed roof, you think you are standing in front of a farmhouse. All the more it takes the breath away when entering the interior of the splendor of the Byzantine frescoes.

The political framework for the emergence of these churches is easy to tell: After the Arabs were expelled in 965, Cyprus was initially a province of the Byzantine state. Crusaders for Richard the Lionheart conquered the island in the early 12th century; the independent kingdom of the French crusader dynasty of the Lusignans was established. The city-state of Venice seized the island as did the Muslim Ottomans in the late 16th century.

According to zipcodesexplorer, churches and monasteries have always been built in the inaccessible mountains of Tróodos. Orthodox monks withdrew to these mountains because of the constant threat of pirate attacks. It seemed to them a suitable place for their contemplation and an ascetic way of life.

The paintings in the churches are still of such a charisma that one would hardly want to believe their old age. This was made possible by the ingenuity of the builders. Byzantine churches are usually vaulted with barrels and domes. After the arrival of the crusaders, the churches of the snowy and rainy Tróodos Mountains were put on a gable roof, as was common in Central Europe. Thus the churches were built with two skins; Air could circulate and thus protect the precious frescoes from moisture.

Various series of images show that the church donors over the centuries simply had some motifs painted over with fresh paint and completely redesigned image areas. The patrons of the church were both local Orthodox Greeks and immigrant French and Italian Catholics. Many a family of the feudal upper class seemed to have very different views on questions of faith: The daughter of a Venetian nobleman is holding an open book in her hands with verses from an Orthodox Marian hymn; the parents, on the other hand, do not profess the Eastern Church, as they hold fast to the rosary on the same fresco!

The Marienkirche in Moutoullas, built in 1280, is the oldest church with a gable roof. The monastery churches of Kakopetria, Asinou and Lagoudera contain the oldest frescoes, some of which were made by court artists from Constantinople in the aristocratic style of the capital. The figures of the saints are elongated, have portrait-like faces and wear their pleated robes elegantly and with a certain nonchalance. The series of images by Kakopetria from the early 11th century is one of the few examples of Byzantine art of this time. Lagoudera, on the other hand, houses the most complete cycle of frescoes from the Middle Byzantine period in Cyprus.

The Church of the Holy Cross, located in the middle of vineyards near Platanistasa, has the most extensive picture cycle. Here some historical scenes from the history of early Christianity have been added to the usual coloring. In the art circle of the Eastern Church it is extremely rare to find the depiction of the victory of Emperor Constantine at the Milvian Bridge and the following solemn entry into Rome. These references to Italy, like other forms of “westernization” in iconography, are due to Venetian rule. At the Lord’s Supper, for example, the apostles sit with their backs – and not their faces – facing the viewer. The depiction of the birth of Jesus turns into a kind of genre painting, as sheep are milked as if it were everyday – a scene that completely contradicts the Byzantine pictorial regulations.

Painted Churches in the Troodos Area (World Heritage)