The Worship of Aphrodite and the Ten Painted Churches
There must be few places in the world so steeped in history as Cyprus. An island with a long history and spreading all the way back to the 10th millennium BC, predating even ancient Egyptian civilization! A melting pot of culture and charm, Cyprus is treasured for its history, proudly boasting for its prehistoric ruins comprising of Neolithic, Mycenaean, Persian, Roman, and Ottoman influence, some of which are registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia, the town of Kato Pafos, the village of Kouklia in Pafos area and the Painted Churches in the Troodos region have been appraised by UNESCO as unique and diverse places that “belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located”. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are recognised internationally for their outstanding universal value that drives hundreds of culture travellers to Cyprus every year.
A visit to the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia, dating back to the 7th – 4th millennium B.C., will truly make you wonder if you’ve ever realized how back in time this small island goes! It is remarkable to think that thousands of years back, the inhabitants of Choirokoitia developed a community here, building their small, circular houses out of mudbrick and stone, and practising agriculture and animal husbandry. The remains and findings that were excavated from Choirokoitia settlement tell scientists a great deal on the evolution of human society in the Eastern Mediterranean, marking this settlement as one of the most important prehistoric sites of the region!
The exceptional architecture and the historic value of Pafos sites are evident in the remains of impressive villas, magnificent palaces, awe-inspiring theatres, imposing fortresses and monumental tombs. The worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who inspired writers, poets and artists over hundreds of years, is reflected in the antiquities of Pafos, the goddess’s legendary birthplace. As a valuable archaeological area, which contributes significantly not only to our understanding of ancient architecture, but also to our knowledge of ancient ways of life and thinking, Pafos holds a unique place in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Exploring the town of Kato Pafos, you will be impressed by the remains of ancient Nea Pafos (Aphrodite’s Sacred City) and particularly by the rare Mosaics of Nea Pafos, rated amongst the most beautiful in the world! Pay a visit to the renowned “Tombs of the Kings”, an underground necropolis carved out of solid rock and decorated with magnificent Doric pillars, where high officials were buried in antiquity. Moving on to the village of Kouklia, you will encounter Palaepaphos (Old Pafos), one of the ancient city-kingdoms of Cyprus, and the remains of the glorious Temple of Aphrodite (Aphrodite’s Sanctuary), dating back to the 12th century BC. Although little has survived from the sanctuary over the centuries, the remains have a lot to say about the cult of Aphrodite, which went on for centuries in the area. The site museum, housed in “La Cavovle”, a Lusignan manor, displays unique finds from the Sanctuary and the area of Palea Pafos in general.
Last but not least, the Painted Churches in the Troodos region are true jewels to those that admire art and architecture, reflecting the influences of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art on the island, as well as various other artistic influences that affected Cyprus over the centuries, in a unique blend of artistic and architectural styles. The ten Painted Churches are richly decorated with magnificent murals, containing an extensive range of dated inscriptions not found often in monuments of the Middle Ages in the Eastern Mediterranean, thus contributing significantly to the estimations of chronology with regards to Byzantine painting. The variety of architectural styles in this group of churches is impressive. What’s particularly striking amongst the ten monuments, are the smaller churches with a rural architectural style that lies in total contrast to the highly refined decoration of the interior! The ten Painted Churches include Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) in Kakopetria, Ayios Ioannis (St. John) Lambadhistis Monastery, in Kalopanayiotis, Panayia (The Virgin) Phorviotissa (Asinou) in Nikitari, Panayia (The Virgin) tou Arakou in Lagoudhera, Panayia (The Virgin) in Moutoullas, Archangelos Michael (Archangel Michael) in Pedhoulas, Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) in Pelendria, Panayia (The Virgin) Podhithou in Galata, Stavros (Holy Cross) Ayiasmati in Platanistasa, and the Church of Ayia Sotira (Transfiguration of the Savior) in Palaichori. Timios Stavros in Pelendria is located in the District of Limassol, while the rest of the monuments are located in the district of Nicosia.
This is Cyprus. A place of cultural heritage, filled with treasures for those seeking to explore the roots, the tradition and the civilization of an island that goes thousands of years back!