World Heritage Churches - Troodos Region

Cyprus has inscribed on the World Heritage List ten churches which bear outstanding testimony to Byzantine civilization, are well-conserved examples of rural religious architecture and provide evidence for the links between eastern and western Christian art. 

The ten churches, which date from the middle to the late byzantine periods (variously from the early 11th to the early 16th centuries), contain byzantine metropolitan art of the highest quality. They also display elements that are specific to Cyprus and that were determined by its geography, history and climate. The architecture of these small churches is unique, confined to the Troodos range and almost certainly of indigenous origin. Steep wooden roofs with locally manufactured flat tiles protect the churches from the rain and occasional snow.

The inscription of the Painted Churches in the Troodos region, in 1985, was approved according to the following criteria:

•They constitute a testimony of the Byzantine culture that existed on the island;

•They are important church monuments of rural ecclesiastical architecture preserved in very good condition;

•The art of these churches encompasses elements which demonstrate the relation between Eastern and Western Christian Art.

The church of Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) is located in the Solea Valley (5km from Kakopetria village) and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The domed cross-in-square church once belonged to a monastery complex and derives its name from its pitched timber roof that was built to protect it from the weather. It is the only surviving monastery church of its kind on the island and is covered entirely in wall paintings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, with the most important surviving set on the island from this period. As such, it is considered one of the most interesting Byzantine churches in Cyprus.

The church itself is dated to the 11th century, whilst the monastery dated to the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century and flourished from the Middle Byzantine period up to the period of Frankish rule. It declined during the 18th century and ceased to function as a monastery by the end of the 19th century. 

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Overlooking the beautiful, old mountainous village of Palaichori, the Metamorfosis tou Sotiros Church (Transfiguration of the Saviour) is an early 16th century chapel that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The structure is single-aisled with a timber-roof that is characteristic of Troodos region churches. The narthex, which was added by the beginning of the 17th century, extends to the west and south sides of the church and is covered by the same timber roof.

The church’s interior is completely painted with one of the most complete series of murals of the post-Byzantine period in Cyprus. The unknown artist was influenced by the art of the Palaiologan period, but also draws influence from western art.

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Located on the east bank of a stream, 3km from the mountainous village of Nikitari, Panagia Asinou Church is a small church dedicated to the Virgin of ‘Phorbia’. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains some of the finest Byzantine wall paintings on the island, dating from the 12th to the 17th century.

The church used to be a monastery church that was built in 1099 with the donation of Magistros Nikephoros Ischyrios, who subsequently became a monk with the name Nikolaos. It functioned until the end of the 18th century, when it was abandoned.

The church consists of two parts – the vaulted single-aisled nave and the narthex – which is a later addition belonging to the second half of the 12th century. The 12th century steep-pitched timber roof, covered with flat tiles, sheltered the church. Today, there are no traces of the rest of the monastic buildings.

The murals inside the church date from the 12th century to the 17th century and reflect the art of Constantinople, which is thought to be the artist’s birthplace.

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Located in the mountainous area of Pitsilia, between the villages of Lagoudera and Saranti, the 12th century church of Panagia tou Araka is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered to be of the most important Byzantine period churches on the island.

The church used to be a monastery church, built during the second half of the 12th century, when monastic life was flourishing in Cyprus. It survived until the first decades of the 19th century and its remains include a two-storey monastery building to the north, along with the church.

The church is a single-aisled domed structure with a cross-shaped, steep-pitched roof that extends to form a latticed-woodwork portico. During the 18th century, the west wall was demolished and the church was extended.

The frescos inside the church are comparable to those prevailing throughout Greece, the Balkans and Russia, and were painted by the artist Theodoros Apsevdis in the late Comnenian style (1192). Those in the apse of the bema are of a different style to those in the rest of the church, and it is believed that they were painted by another artist before 1192.

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Located in the mountainous region of Moutoulla, the tiny 13th century chapel of Panagia tou Moutoulla is one of the earliest examples of its type and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The church has a steep-pitched timber roof and frescoes dating to 1280. The narthex was added at a later stage, after the beginning of the 16th century, and extends to the west and north sides of the church. The timber roof also covers the narthex. The wall paintings are the only series of the thirteenth century (1280) that survive in Cyprus and can be dated with precision.

The church was built and decorated through the donations of Ioannis of Moutoullas and his wife Irene, who are both depicted holding a model of the church. It is believed that it may have been a private chapel.

The village itself has an ongoing tradition for carved wooden basins.

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Originally a monastery, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a complex of three churches – Ioannis Lampadistis, Agios Irakleidios and a Latin chapel – all under a single, enormous timber roof.

Located in the Troodos valley of Marathasa (just off the village of Kalopanagiotis), the precise date of the monastery’s foundation is not known, and the building complex that survives today has undergone extensive reconstruction and restoration at different periods.

The church of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis was built in 1731. The saint’s tomb, which dates to the 12th century, can be found under the narrow north-eastern arch, and the saint’s skull lies in a niche. The icon of Lampadistis dates to 1543. A very interesting Byzantine museum can be found near the church.

The church of Agios Irakleidios was built in the 11th century, while its frescoes date to the 13th and 16th century. The ancient wooden templon is particularly noteworthy and is covered with gargoyles, including a heraldic Lusignan lion and Byzantine eagle.

The Latin Chapel contains the most complete series of Italo-Byzantine paintings in Cyprus.

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Located in the picturesque village of Pedoulas, Archangelos Michael Church is a small church that was built and decorated in 1474 by a local painter named Minas, who came from the area of Marathasa. It is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The church is completely decorated on two levels in the local post-Byzantine style that developed prior to Venetian rule. There are 11 compositions from the Festival Cycle above, and depictions of the saints below. The Crucifixion and the Ascension are depicted in the pediments.

The structure of the church has a usual sloping mountain roof and is single-aisled. The narthex, which extends to its south and west side, was used as a loft for women due to the small size of the church, whilst only men entered the main church. A wooden templon of the same period has remained intact and serves as an excellent example of its kind.

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Located about 3km outside the mountainous village of Platanistasa, the 15th century church of Stavros tou Agiasmati is a UNESCO World Heritage site and retains the most complete cycles of mural paintings of the second half of the 15th century on the island.

Its name derives from the word ‘Agiasma’ (-atos) which in Greek means ‘sanctified water, spring or well near a church’. The church used to be a monastery church, but only traces of the cells of the monastic buildings remain to the south of the church.

The surviving structure is a single-aisled building with a steep-pitched timber roof covered with flat tiles that extends beyond the main structure to form a portico on all four sides – a feature that is unique in Cyprus. According to an inscription, the building was built with the donation of a priest named Petros Peratis and his wife Pepani, who are both depicted on a fresco offering a model of the church to Jesus with the mediation of the Virgin. Also noteworthy is the extensive and multi-person Last Judgment scene, which unfolds up to the far end of the gable where Jesus Christ is depicted.

Whilst the year of the church’s erection is not known, it is generally accepted that its decoration was completed in 1494.

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Located in the village of Galata, the church of Panagia Podithou is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of four painted churches in the village.

Once belonging to a monastery, the church was built in 1502 through the donation of Demetre de Coron and his wife Helen. Demetre, a captain of the barony of Pentageia, is known to have been involved in the political disorder of 1461. The monastery functioned until the beginning of the 19th century, but fell into decline and was finally abandoned after 1821 when the Archbishop and other notables were executed following the Greek revolution.

The building is single-aisled with a steep-pitched timber roof. A later portico surrounds the three sides of the church, with the roof sheltering both the church and portico. The mural paintings are of the Italo-Byzantine style that appeared on the island towards the end of the 15th century.

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The 14th century church of Timios Stavrou (Holy Cross) in Pelendri village is decorated with exquisite wall paintings of the Palaiologan period and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The church was originally a single-aisled domed structure, built around the middle of the 12th century, and may have been the church of a cemetery. It was destroyed under unknown circumstances, and the present form of the church is the result of several additions and alterations, carried out throughout various periods, with only the original apse surviving.

According to an inscription in the apse, the original wall paintings date to 1171 / 1172 with fragments of the decoration preserved on the apse under the layer of the 14th century frescoes. The main part of the church was decorated during the second half of the 14th century by at least two artists.

The north aisle served as a private chapel for the family of the Latin feudal lord of the area, Ioannes Lusignan (1353 – 1374 / 1375), and the village itself was once the property of Jean de Lusignan, son of the Lusignan King of Cyprus, Hugh IV.

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