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The hidden beauty of the “painted” churches of Cyprus

CYPRUS;BIRTH OF CHRIST

Public Domain

V. M. Traverso - published on 08/07/20

Unassuming rural buildings hide UNESCO World Heritage Byzantine murals. 

The island of Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean, is famous for being a cultural crossroads between the East and the West. That hybrid identity is summarized in the unique architecture of its “painted” churches, a series of structures nestled in the mountainous Troodos region.

From the outside, these small churches look like simple, unassuming buildings. One could easily mistake them for rural warehouses. It is only by stepping inside that their true identity is revealed. Stunning Byzantine murals completed between the 11thand 14th century gained these churches entrance into the ranks of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 1985. Here are some of the most striking examples of Cyprus’ painted churches:

1. Church of Saint Nicholas of the Roof

Built during the 11th century, this church owes its name to its flat-tiled roof, which was built onto a pre-existing domed roof typical of Byzantine architecture. Its interior walls host a series of frescoes dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries. The murals feature the typical color scheme of Byzantine art — gold, ochre, navy blue — and portray scenes from the life of Jesus as well as icons representing Christ Pantocrator and the evangelists.

CYPRUS;AGIOS NIKOLAO; ST NICHOLAS OF THE ROOF
Coranton|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

The exterior of Church of Saint Nicholas of the Roof looks like it could be a warehouse.
CYPRUS;BIRTH OF CHRIST
Public Domain

The interior of Church of Saint Nicholas of the Roof feature murals from as early as the 11th century.

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