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by Archaeology Newsroom

Churches and monasteries of Limassol

The ecclesiastical history that unfolds from early Christian times in the present geographical area of the Diocese of Limassol is marked by all the general characteristics of the history of the church of Cyprus. It is also conditioned by the political, military, social and economic changes that the island has undergone for the two past millennia until now. This historic period can be studied in the particular area of Limassol through written sources, oral tradition and the affluent monuments in its religious art. Countless churches, monasteries and other holy sites are spread all over the diocese covering 4 municipalities, 78 villages and 8 refugee housing estates. They date from the paleochristian era up to the present day. They have been preserved either as ruins, discovered during excavations or as monuments which have been refitted or transformed with the addition of other parts; these changes correspond to their functions throughout the centuries. Other churches or monasteries (abandoned or in use) survived in their original state, but are somewhat damaged. Very few examples were converted into mosques during the Ottoman period, such as Haghios Georgios at Episcopi, where the wall paintings of the original church can be seen under the Turkish distemper. Among these abundant ecclesiastic monuments only a few representative examples can be cited here. The monastery of Haghios Nikolaos ton Ghaton was originally built, according to tradition, in around 330 AD, but the present building is the result of reconstructions and modifications between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, its rehabilitation in the middle of the eighteenth century and the recent reconstructions of some parts. In the city of Limassol the oldest churches which have survived up to now are those of Haghios Antonios and Haghios Andronikos, specimens of post-Gothic style mixed with Byzantine reminiscences. A wonderful example of a Byzantine church of the fourteenth century, with two domes, preserving some of its wall paintings, is that of Haghia Anastasia at Polemidia. Outside Polemidia is the church of the medieval Catholic cloister of the order of Carmelites (fourteenth century), now converted into an Orthodox chapel. In the village of Pelendri, up on the mountains of the Troodos range, which was a medieval Frankish fief, we can visit the church of Timios Stavros (thirteenth-fifteenth centuries), where there are plenty of wall paintings: it is listed in the Unesco catalogue of World Cultural Heritage. Finally, another two remarkable churches are to be mentioned, that of Haghios Mamas at Louvaras, painted by Philippos Goul in 1495, and that of Panaghia tou Amasgou at Monagri (twelfth-sixteenth centuries), which was formerly a monastery. The oldest painting in its interior dates from the twelfth century and belongs to the Comnenian style.