This is perhaps the most famous of the ten churches, as it is also one of the oldest and a well-known place of pilgrimage in this sunny country. When seen from the outside, doors and windows appear to have been arranged haphazardly. Inside, the series of frescoes spans a period of 600 years, from the 12th to the 17th century. The oldest paintings date back to the years after the construction of the church, originally built in the 11th century as a katholikon (monastery church). Most of the murals that have been preserved date from the 14th century. The most recent wall paintings are dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul and date from the 17th century, some time before the decline of the site began.
The painted churches of the Troodos Mountains, in the heart of Cyprus, are exceptional examples of the artistic legacy of the Byzantine Empire and its evolution. With their vibrant biblical scenes imprinted on walls and ceilings, each of the following 10 UNESCO World Heritage churches is a little treasure no to be missed on a visit to Cyprus.
Panagia tou Moutoulla is situated in the fertile valley of Marathasa, on a hill above the village of Moutoulla which gives it its name.This jewel of the Byzantine period, built in 1280, reveals the architectural features common to all the painted churches of Troodos: a single stone nave and a steep timber roof with flat tiles. Out of the remarkable collection of wall paintings in this church, one stands out from the rest: the figures of Ioannis de Moutoulas and his wife, donors who founded the church, holding a model of it. This has led some experts to theorise that the church may have originally been founded as a private chapel.
Panagia tou Araka is located near the village of Logoudera, in the region of Pitsilia, known for the beauty of its natural landscapes. The church follows the style of other churches in the Trodos region, but with a wooden latticed portico that sets it apart. It was originally built as a katholikon (monastery church) in the 12th century when monastic life was flourishing in Cyprus. A wonderful display of vibrant biblical figures, painted in a late Comnenian style, welcomes worshippers and visitors as soon as they step inside. The monastery was dissolved in the 19th century, but fortunately for the island, the church was preserved and later listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
The monastery of Ioannis Lampadistis lies on a bank of the river Setrachos, in the valley of Marathasa. It has three churches, the oldest of which dates from the 11th century. Legend has it that Ioannis Lampadistis, a young man determined to become a monk and dedicate his life to serving God, was pressured into marrying a girl. He refused, and the rejected bride then tried to poison him. Ioannis survived the effect of the poison, but was blinded, which didn’t stop him from fulfilling his desire to become a monk. His remains now rest in the church that bears his name.
The church was founded in the 12th century in a mountainous area not far from the village of Nikitari. Some of the original frescoes from this period have survived, with a clear influence of the artistic style of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The narthex was rebuilt and consequently redecorated between the 13th and the 14th century.
Built in the 12th century near the village of Pelendri, it may have been a cemetery church. Of the original structure only the apse remains. The church is the result of multiple additions and alterations over time. The mural paintings date from the 14th century from at least two different artists.
This church, built towards the end of the 15th century, was also built as a katholikon (monastery church). Nothing has survived of the former monastery, apart from a few archaeological remains of the cells. Yet, the church has not only been able to survive but also to preserve a marvellous set of murals by the Syriac Orthodox painter Philippos Goul. The murals in this church are distinguished by their mixture of styles: a predominant Palaeologan Renaissance style, from the late Byzantine Empire, that blends with the Italian Renaissance style and some local influences. As in some other churches, the donors of the church, the priest Petros Peratis and his wife Pepani, are represented holding a model of the church.
The church was built in 1474 in a mountainous area near the village of Pedoulas. Its exterior appearance is notable for its sloping mountain roof, which is longer on one side than on the other. The interior was decorated by Minas, a local painter from Marathasa, who provided the church with wonderful murals in the post-Byzantine style, which developed in Cyprus some time before the Venetian rule.
The church was built in 1502 as part of a monastery that functioned from the 16th to the 18th century, north of the village of Galata. After the Greek Revolution of 1821, the monastery began to decline and was eventually dissolved. This church's murals reflect the Italo-Byzantine style which appeared on the island at the end of the 15th century, during the Venetian rule of Cyprus.
The church was built in the early 16th century on a hill overlooking the village of Palaichori. Due to its more recent construction, the church preserves one of the most complete series of original wall paintings in Cyprus. Although painted under the Ottoman occupation of the country, the paintings retain the essence of the Byzantine style. Metamorphosis tou Sotiro was the latest addition to the list of Troodos churches inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in 2001. This church is also distinguished by the fact that it is the only one with a tower that stands next to it.