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CHURCHES, MONASTERIES AND MOSQUES

The Cathedral of Agios Ioannis Theologos (Saint John the Theologian), situated between the old and the new archbishopric, is possibly the best known church in the island. It is from this church that panegyrics are read on national anniversaries and, quite often, doxologies are held in the presence of the President of the Republic and the prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The present-day Cathedral of St John the Theologian was, prior to the 18th century, the church of the monastery of St John Pipis, dating from medieval times. Following its destruction and according to an inscription above the western entrance, Archbishop Nikiforos rebuilt it in 1662. The paintings of the cathedral probably undertaken between 1735 and 1763, is the work of Archbishop Filotheos. Inside the church one is impressed primarily by the frescoes and the finely-carved wooden iconostasis, which is adorned with numerous representations of animals, plants, birds, etc.

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What stands out is a double row of portable icons where, among others, the main events in the life of Christ are depicted. On the Archbishop’s throne, one can see the icon of St Barnabas, founder of the Church of Cyprus, as well as a pomegranate, symbolising unity within the Church. Next to the throne, one notices the famous and, maybe, unique fresco, depicting the granting of privileges to the Church of Cyprus. This is a small composition, made up of four smaller representations. The first depicts St Barnabas appearing before Archbishop Anthemios and pointing out to the latter where he is buried. The second depicts the discovery of the saint’s grave, under a carob tree. In the third, emperor Zeno offers a blog to Archbishop Anthemios, while in the fourth, the emperor grants a sceptre and a quill, both symbols of the authority enjoyed by the Archbishop of Cyprus.

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Churches of walled Nicosia. (a) Agios Antonios church. Built in the 17th century, the church of Agios Antonios is single-aisled with narthex and three arched entrances. Embodied in the walls are architectural parts of previous churches. The church lies about a metre below the surface of the adjacent road and impresses with its carved belfry and its hewn limestone blocks with which it is built.

(b) Agios Savvas church. The church was built in 1850-51 on the foundations of an earlier church, probably Byzantine. It is a two-aisled building with four entrances and a portico built most probably in 1900 when the belfry was built too. The south wall of the church most probably belongs to the previous church. Though the church has no architectural interest, nevertheless it contains some old portable icons as well as some old furniture.

(c) Trypiotis church. The large, square church of Trypiotis, dedicated to Archangelos Michail, lies close to Laiki Geitonia, within the walls of old Nicosia. The three-aisled, domed church of Franco-Byzantine style, built in 1695, has six entrances. Embodied into its walls are fragments, particularly bas-reliefs, a carved marble and coats of arms of previous churches. The interior of the church is very rich with an iconostasis adorned with gold leaf and silver-covered icons. Its pulpit was the main subject of a Cypriot stamp of 1980 issue.

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Service outside the Cathedral of St John the Theologian

(d) Faneromeni church. Lying in the commercial sector of old Nicosia, Faneromeni is the youngest and most spacious church built in 1872, on the foundations of a convent. It is dome-built in Franco-Byzantine style and has three aisles, the middle aisle being wider and higher. Its belfry is impressive, while its frescoes are few, confined to the dome and the bema.

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(e) Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. This church is considered to be the oldest in Byzantine style in Nicosia, built in 1450 by Helena Palaeologou, wife of the Lusignan King John II. Fragments and other Gothic elements are embodied in the building, particularly in the southwest corner. It is not known how far back it dates, but currently it hosts a great number of rare icons of Byzantine era. About 25 of its icons are housed in the Byzantine Museum of Archbishop Makarios III.

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(f) Agios Kassianos church. This is the only surviving church in Cyprus dedicated to St. Kassianos, built in 1854 on the site of a Latin church destroyed in 1570, during the siege of Nicosia. Many parts of the old church are embodied in the new church, which is two-aisled with the south part being wider than the north. The bones and scull of Agios Kassianos, a 4th century Roman saint, are kept in a golden box. Another treasure of the church is a silver helmet of the saint believed to be miraculous and recom-mended for those suffering from headaches.

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Church of Evangelistria (Pallouriotissa). In the premises of present-day church of Evangelistria, in the suburb of Pallouriotissa, there stood a men’s monastery, founded in the 16th century. It is around this monastery that the settlement of Pallouriotissa grew. Most probably the monastery was dissolved in the 18th century, though the church of the monastery was rebuilt in 1887. The present church dates from 1963, being a large church where services for special national occasions are often held.

Kykko Metochi (Annex). It lies nearly 2km outside the medieval walls and is dedicated to St. Prokopios. A small church was constructed during the Turkish period, replaced by a church in 1866, while the cells around were increased and renovated in 1922. During periods of drought the rain-bearing icon of Panagia tou Kykkou was removed from the monastery of Kykko and placed at Kykko Metochi before being taken to the thirsty villages of Mesaoria plain.

Monastery of Archangelos Michail. The recently-restored Monastery of Archangelos Michail, stands on the right side of Pediaios river and belongs to the Monastery of Kykko. According to professor N. Tsikkinis, it was built on the foundations of an ancient settlement, while according to I.K. Peristianis the monastery is Byzantine and dates back to the 11th or 12th century. It was later taken by the Franks and the Turks until it was bought by Archbishop Nikiforos. Originally it was single-aisled with dome, while in 1660 the narthex was added to the west and a north aisle to the north. The gilted iconostasis dates from 1650 while very few paintings are preserved, like those of Archangelos Michail, Agios Dimitrios and some others. When the rain-compelling icon of Kykko was brought down to the plains during severe droughts, it was given shelter in this monastery. This is mentioned on the right side of the north entrance. Currently, close to the monastery functions the Center of Studies of the Kykko Monastery.

Archangelos Michail Monastery, Lakatameia

St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. Close to the Archaeological Museum, in Vyronos Avenue, stands St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, built in 1893 to replace an earlier building. It is constructed in Victorian Gothic style, reminiscent of many churches in the countryside of Britain. The statues of St. Paul and St. Barnabas who established the Christian church in Cyprus and the memorial window depicting St. George and the Dragon are among the precious features of the interior. English-speaking residents in Nicosia use the cathedral.

Omeriyeh Mosque. Close to the Archbishopric and the other churches, within the medieval walls of the capital, stands the minaret of the Omeriyeh mosque. The mosque was originally a church dedicated to St. Marina, built by members of the Augustine Order during the first half of the 14th century. It is mentioned that the church formed part of a large complex, comprising a monastery for the members of the Order. The Augustine Order arrived in Cyprus during the 12th century, and it is quite probable that they originally had their monastery in Kyrenia. They are known as the “White Brothers” due to the colour of their garb. For a short period, they occupied the Bellapais Abbey. In Nicosia, they resided at the disappeared monastery surrounding today’s Omeriyeh mosque. With the occupation of Cyprus by the Turks in 1571, the church was converted to a Moslem mosque, which is still in use by the Moslem minority. Moslems residing in Cyprus attend prayers at the mosque every Friday and an imam and a hodja, currently Syrian, are available to the faithful. It is frequently claimed that the Church of Agia Marina was so impressive and majestic that it could compare to the neighbouring Agia Sofia Church in Nicosia.

Bairaktar mosque. The Bairaktar mosque, standing on the Constanza bastion, though not a significant landform, is however associated with the conquest of Cyprus and Nicosia in particular, by the Turks in 1571. It appears that a Turkish soldier, holding a Turkish flag, managed to cross the moat, surrounding the Venetian walls, and hoist it on the Constanza bastion, at the present site of the mosque. The bastion was later named Bairaktar in memory of the Turkish banner-holder, while the mosque was erected in the 18th century.

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