Cyprus is cruelly divided between the Greek half in the south and the Turkish half in the north. Despite being built up, with villages, houses and hotels lining the coasts, the island maintains its charm and authenticity. Cypriots are Greek, and speak Greek, however Cyprus, with its sumptuous, essentially Mediterranean nature, is very different from Greece and other Mediterranean countries. The identity of Cyprus is obvious. Above all Cyprus is known for her ancient ruins, columns, temples, and mosaics. However, what impressed me most, were the Byzantine treasures. The monasteries hidden in the mountains, small churches covered in frescos scattered throughout the forests, small museums overflowing with icons and unexpected artifacts. Cyprus may well be the richest place on earth for Byzantine artworks.
The mountains of Troodos in the center of the island are covered with thick forests that take on a rather ghostly character in the winter haze.
The beautiful Church of the True Cross, in the wooded mountains of Troodos, on the outskirts of the village of Pelendri.
The Panaghia Katholiki Church, also in the village of Pelendri, is home to an extraordinary icon of Christ, dating to the 14th century.
After many turns and bend in the wooded mountains of Troodos, we arrived at the small monastery of Panaghia Araka. A covered gallery surrounds the monastery, which is rather unique for the area.
In the middle of a prairie, the Church of Panaghia Asinou doesn’t seem like much from the outside. Within, the Church is home to magnificent frescos from the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly the representation of the archangel, with his eyes rubbed out. Was this the act of some barbarous infidel? Or the superstition of an orthodox believer?
The Monastery of Saint Nicholas, again in the Troodos Mountains. The architecture is rather curious. The many uncommon elements mark the originality of this sanctuary.
Near Paphos, the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. Only, Aphrodite had already been born in Kythira, as the goddess of eternal love, before being reborn in Cyprus, as the goddess of carnal love.
The Church of Saint Paraskevi, near Paphos, with its many domes, is another Byzantine masterpiece.
Paphos was one of the most famous cities in Antiquity, and is rich in ancient artifacts, like this Greco-Roman mosaic of a labyrinth.
The fortress that guards the port of Paphos is a reminder of the island’s importance during the time of the Crusades, when Cyprus was a kingdom belonging to the House of Lusignan.
At the entrance of the religious museum of Nicosia, a bust of Makarios stands in the corner. Makarios was the island’s most famous son, both as archbishop and president of the republic.
The Bishop’s Palace in Paphos is home to a small museum of icons, more enchanting than the ancient site itself. These pious images are amongst the oldest and most beautiful of the whole island, such as this icon of Saint John the Egyptian, an Arab dressed in red wearing an earring.
The Museum of Paphos is also home to more classic icons, such as this splendid 14th century representation of John the Baptist.
The religious museum of Nicosia has one of the great collections of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, such as this Pantocrator, Christ the all powerful.
At the entrance of the Archbishop’s Palace, once the home of Makarios, is a small glass museum housing two of the former president’s limousines.
The archeological museum of Nicosia is rich in ancient Cypriot works of art.
The city of Larnaka is home to one of the island’s greatest treasures, the Chuch of Saint Lazarus. When the resurrected died for the second time, he was interred on Cyprus, in this sanctuary.
The small Church of Kiti in the south of Larnaka is one of the oldest and most charming on Cyprus. The church houses a rare and magnificent mosaic of the Virgin and angels.
Near the international airport of Larnaka, a lake extends to the foot of a Muslim monument, the Hala Sultan Tekke, almost out of place amongst all the Christian treasures. The aunt of the prophet Muhammad is interred here.