Painted Churches in the Troodos Region
These magnificent painted churches are situated in the Pitsilia, Solea and Marathasa area of the Troodos region in central Cyprus. The churches are a UNESCO world Heritage Site since 1985 and include ten Byzantine churches and monasteries richly decorated with Byzantine murals that are said to have been built between the 11th and 16th century. The region has one of the largest groups of churches of the former Byzantine Empire.
All ten churches are well conserved and provide an outstanding example of Byzantine and post-Byzantine paintings. These churches are still used as places of worship by the locals who take great pride in preserving the authenticity of these structures. Set in the rural surroundings of the Troodos area, these churches are visited by thousands of tourists and local every year.
All ten churches retain their architectural uniqueness and rich decoration which form a complete set that exhibits the religious history of this area. The state and particularly the Antiquities department play a big part in keeping the integrity of these structures intact. Yearly conservation works are carried out to ensure that these churches are kept in pristine condition. All work undertaken is done with respect to the original structures and with the utmost care to preserve the authenticity of the wall paintings.
A scenic drive through the Troodos area visiting these monuments to Cyprus’ religious roots and significant heritage, is a wonderful way to enjoy these significant examples of Byzantine art. These buildings have remained unchanged for centuries and are definitely worth seeing. There are 4 churches grouped together in the Pitsilia area, 3 in the Solea area and 3 in the Marathasa area as follows.
In the Pitsilia area:
Stavros Ayiasmati (Church of the Holy Cross of Ayiasmati) in Platanistasa
This church used to be a monastery and was built at the end of the 15th century. Only the church survived with ruins of the cells to the south of the church. The name ‘ayiasmati’ is derived from the word ‘ayiasma’ which means sanctified water which was obtained from a spring near the church.
Metamorfosis tou Sotiros (Transfiguration of the Saviour) in Palaichori
This is a small chapel that was built at the beginning of the 16th century. The steep pitched roof and enclosed gallery which was built in stone, has an arched recess on each side of the walls. The interior of the chapel is completely painted in a magnificent example of post Byzantine art.
Timios Stavros (Church of the Holy Cross) in Pelendri
This church was built at the end of the 12th century and was decorated with frescoes in 1178. The church was destroyed and rebuilt using the original dome at the beginning of the 14th century. Later the church was extended further to the north with a vault that connected to the main church with Byzantine arches. The north wall subsequently collapsed leaving only the wall paintings on the west and south walls.
Panagia tou Araka in Lagoudhera
This 12th century church is located between the villages of Lagoudera and Saranti in the Pitsilia area. This church used to be a monastery which survived until the early 19th century. Today you can see the two-storey monastery building to the north, and the church with its impressive Byzantine frescoes.
In the Solea area:
Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, Kakopetria
This church is situated two kilometers south west of Kakopetria village. This is a small church built in the 11th century and one of the only surviving monastery churches of the Byzantine era on the island. This small church is a pilgrimage site and revered amongst the locals. It has a steep pitched roof which gives the church its name. The interior is often hailed as a museum of Byzantine art and the frescoes which are at least 600 years old, are an awesome sight to behold.
Panagia Podithou (Church of the Virgin Podithou) in Galata
Situated in the upper Solea area in the valley of the river Klarios, this church is said to have been built 1502. This used to be a monastery which was functional until the beginning of the 19th century. This church was never entirely painted and the painted area is concentrated on both sides of the western pediment as well as the north and south walls.
Panagia (Church of Our Lady) Phorbiotissa (or Asinou) in Nikitari
This church is situated on the north foothills of the Troodos Mountains, 3 kilometers from the village of Nikitari. This church used to be a monastery which was built in 1099 and abandoned at the end of the 18th century. The only surviving part today is the church which has its walls completely covered in the most spectacular frescoes, some of which date back to the 1100’s.
In the Marathasa area:
Ayios Iohannis Lampadistis (Saint John Lampadistis) in Kalopanayiotis
One of the key attractions in Kalopanayiotis, which is a popular resort in the Troodos region, is the Lampadistis Monastery. This is considered to be one of the favourite UNESCO churches and it consists of three structures dating back to the 11th century. The monastery is dedicated to a young monk John Lampadistis, who is buried on the grounds of the monastery. His tomb has been credited with special healing powers and is considered a pilgrimage across the country. The interior of the monastery is spectacular with its well preserved frescoes and icons.
Panagia tou Moutoulla in Moutoullas
This tiny 13th century chapel is located in the mountainous region of Moutoullas. The church has frescoes dating back to 1280 with extensions made at the beginning of the 16th century. The frescoes are the only surviving paintings from 1280. This church was said to have been built by Ioannis of Moutoulla and his wife Irene as a private chapel. The village of Moutoullas has and ongoing tradition of carved wooden basins.
Church of the Archangel Michael in Pedhoulas
The church of the Archangel Michael was built before 1474 as a single aisled steep-pitched roof structure. The wall paintings which were painted by a painter called Minas in 1474 are very well preserved except for the Crucifixion and the Ascension which have been destroyed. The timber roofed church is one of the most important landmarks of this area. The large wall painting of Archangel Michael on the northern wall is of particular interest. The feast day of the Archangel Michael is celebrated on the 8th November every year.