Painted Churches in the Troodos Region
This region is characterized by one of the largest groups of churches and monasteries of the former Byzantine Empire. The complex of 10 monuments included on the World Heritage List, all richly decorated with murals, provides an overview of Byzantine and post-Byzantine painting in Cyprus. They range from small churches whose rural architectural style is in stark contrast to their highly refined decoration, to monasteries such as that of St John Lampadistis.
The churches of the region of Troodos are a well conserved example of rural religious architecture during the Byzantine period. The refinement of their decor provides a contrast with their simplicity of structure. The latest post-Byzantine painters alone, with their 'rustic' style, are at times in harmony with this vernacular architecture.
The paintings of the Troodos region bear an outstanding testimony to the Byzantine civilization at the time of the Comnenes, thanks to the Nikitari and Lagoudera ensembles. It should be noted that the former, where the name Alexis Comnene is mentioned in a dedication, was probably executed by artists from Constantinople and that the latter was painted at the very time of the fall of Isaac Comnene and the sale of Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan.
Although the existence of any direct influence cannot be confirmed, there was during the 12th century a very close relationship between painting in Cyprus and Western Christian art (stylistic relationships in the case of the Nikitari paintings; iconographical relationships in the case of the paintings of Lagoudera). Thus, there do exist some answers to the very complex question of ties between the two Christianities. These answers take the form of Cypriot monuments which precedes the constitution of the Frankish Lusignan Kingdom which was a fundamental link in the chain of East-West artistic exchanges.
In the region of the Mounts of Troodos, in the heart of Cyprus, can be found one of the greatest concentrations of churches and monasteries in the Byzantine Empire, by which the island was annexed during the conquest of 965. The complex of ten monuments included on the World Heritage List, all richly decorated with murals, provides an overview of Byzantine and post-Byzantine painting in Cyprus. They range from small churches, whose rural architectural style is in stark contrast to their highly refined decoration, to monasteries such as that of St John Lampadistis.
Among the most significant cycles is that of Panagia Phorbiotissa of Nikitari, which was traced back to 1105-06 thanks to a written dedication, and that of Panagia tou Arakou in Lagoudera, which was executed during the last six months of 1192. These paintings are the perfect expression of rudimental art during the period of the Comnenes. The 13th- and 14th-century painting is also represented by works of great quality in Nikitari, at the church of the Virgin in Moutoullas, and at St Heracleidius's, which is one of the twin churches of the Kalopanayotis monastery. Moreover, it is linked to St John Lampadistis. Finally, there is post-Byzantine painting which, after the fall of the Empire, spread the artistic formulas of Constantinople. It is well represented by the narthex of the Kalopanayotis monastery, by the church of the Archangel Michael in Pedhoulas (1474), that of the Holy Cross, in Platanistasa (1494), etc.
Apart from the church of St Nicholas in Kakopetria, which contains 11th-century paintings (Transfiguration , Resurrection of Lazarus , Entry to Jerusalem ), 12th-century paintings (Forty Martyrs of Sebaste , The Last Judgement , St Nicholas ), paintings from the 14th (The Nativity , St Theodore and St George ) and the 16th centuries (donors and inscriptions of dedication from 1520, Birth of the Virgin ), there are very few churches the decor of which testifies to a succession of periods.
The Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Ayia Sotira) in Palaichori belongs to the architectural type of the steep-pitched wooden roof with flat hooked tiles. This type of roofing over a Byzantine church is not found elsewhere, making the wooden-roofed churches of Cyprus a unique group example of religious architecture. The church is a type of construction that is characteristic of the mountainous region of Troodos. It is particularly notable for its very rich wall-paintings, dating back to the 16th century.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Although the last line of the inscription indicating the date of construction and decoration of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Ayia Sotira) has been erased, research by specialists has enabled it to be dated to the beginning of the 16th century. As regards the wall paintings that decorate the interior of the church, comparative iconographic and stylistic studies with other churches in the region (Churches of the Holy Cross at Agiasmati, 1494; St Mamas at Louveras, 1495; St Sozomenus, 1513; the Archangel-Panagia Theotokos at Galata, 1514), have dated them to the second decade of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, a surrounding wall was built on the southern and western sides of the edifice.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation