Land of saints, painted churches, legends and miracle-working icons. Nowhere else can you see every style of Byzantine art in such a small area.
Cyprus was the first country in the world to come under Christian administration when the Apostles Paul and Barnabas visited the island in their mission to spread Christianity. See the stone column in Pafos where, legend has it, Paul was flogged in AD 45 before converting the Roman governor. Byzantine art survived and flourished here, as the island escaped the iconoclastic decrees of Byzantium. Marvel at the vivid wall paintings in the apses of many medieval churches and admire many beautiful religious artefacts.
Pafos is not just a region it represents the glory of Christianity.
Christianity and Cyprus
In A.D. 45 the Apostles Paul and Barnabas accompanied by the evangelist John Mark, visited the island and stopped off in Pafos, then the capital of Cyprus. The Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, was initiated into Christianity by the Apostles and eventually converted to the new religion. Despite this important success, legend has it that the Apostles at first faced problems in Pafos. It is believed that Paul was tied to a stone pillar and flogged, receiving forty but one (i.e. 39) lashes. The inhabitants of Pafos even today point to a certain pillar, near the ruins of the Gothic church, known as St. Paul’s pillar.
Α short time later, the Cypriot Apostle, Barnabas, returned to Cyprus for a new missionary tour of the island, which again included Pafos. Barnabas ended up in Salamis, where he was executed by the Jews of the town. He is considered to be the founder of the Autocephalus (independent) Church of Cyprus.
In Α.D. 330, Constantine the Great transferred the capital of his Empire to Constantinople, an event which resulted in the split of the huge Roman Empire into Western and Eastern parts. This left Cyprus in the Eastern part, namely the Byzantine Empire.
In the footsteps of St. Paul in Pafos
You can follow in St Paul’s footsteps and visit the places where he preached and spread Christianity.
Although he was not one of Jesus’ close circle of students, Paul became an Apostle as a result of his divine calling, thereby taking on the burden of spreading the Gospel. Paul was fortunate in that he combined three elements which were essential for the role he was assigned. First, he was a Jew, with a fighting spirit and a streak of stubbornness; second, he had a Greek education, spirit, and soul, and third, he was a Roman citizen, with an open passport in a vast empire that reached the limits of the known world at the time.
In 45 AD the two Apostles Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Mark, travelled from Antioch to Silesia and from there by ship to Cyprus, arriving at Salamis, the largest port on the island at the time. (Acts 13.5)
“They travelled through the whole island until they came to Paphos” (Acts 13.6), where they managed to convert the Roman Proconsul who embraced the Christian faith thereby making Cyprus the first country in the world to be governed by a Christian
His arrival in Pafos
St. Paul would have entered Pafos through one of the town’s gates, three of which survive to this day:
1) The north eastern gate, near and to the east of the theatre of Kato Pafos
2) The northern gate, situated on the hill known as “Fabrica”, to the left of the modern road leading to the harbour.
3) The north western gate, which is the best preserved and the only one where the bridge above the moat around the walls has survived.
The church of Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa
The Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Early Byzantine basilica on the island. Within the compound is St. Paul’s Pillar. Originally the church was seven–aisled, but later was reduced to five aisles. The floor was covered with colourful mosaics, some of which are still preserved.
The house of Theseus / Mosaics
The Roman villas situated a stone’s throw from Pafos harbour, were found accidentally and have the most exquisite mosaics depicting scenes from Greek mythology. The house of Theseus is believed to have been the residence of the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus, who converted to Christianity upon hearing the preaching of St. Paul, so it is possible that St. Paul visited this area.
St. Paul's departure
“Paul and the others left Pafos and sailed to Perga in Pamphylia” (Acts 13.13).
Saints of Pafos
Christianity took root in Pafos early on – perhaps more than in any other district of Cyprus. The enormous number of churches, chapels and monasteries here bear witness to this. One of the reasons for this is the rough and mountainous terrain of the district, which during Byzantine times offered the ideal conditions for seclusion and monastic life.
Amongst the many saints who have been through Pafos, living or dying in the district, the following are especially venerated:
Apostles Barnabas and Paul and the Evangelist Mark
The Apostles Barnabas and Paul and the Evangelist Mark who preached in the Pafos district and throughout Cyprus, laying the foundations of Christianity.
St. Gennadios (5th century A.D.)
St. Gennadios was the Patriarch of Constantinople who came to Pafos after resigning his high position. He died on the island and there is a ruined church dedicated to him at Moro Nero, near the village of Episkopi (Celebration day: 17th December).
St. Agapitikos (Saint of love)
St. Agapitikos (Saint of love) is of uncertain age. He came to Cyprus from Palestine and lived a hermit’s life near the village of Arodhes. There is a sarcophagus in the village in which he was supposedly buried. Α second sarcophagus is thought to be that of St. Misitikos (Saint of hatred). The first one blesses love and the second, hatred.
It has not been established exactly when St. Kendeas lived as a hermit near the coast of Pafos, but he later moved to eastern Cyprus, where he died (Celebration day: 6th October).
St. Neophytos the Enkleistos (1134-1219) is the most important saint of the district and one of the most eminent of the Orthodox Church. He was born in Cyprus and lived as a hermit. When he arrived in Pafos, he chose a secluded area north-west of the town, where he carved a cave (his hermitage) out of the rock with his own hands. He also served as a priest and founded the monastery that bears his name. An intellectual and writer, he left a noteworthy body of mainly theological works. He also went on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. (Celebration days: 24th January and 28th September).
The following bishops of Pafos are venerated as Saints: Epafras (1st century A.D.), Titos (1st century A.D.), Cyrillus or Kyriakos (4th century A.D.), Julius (4th century A.D.), Sapricius (5th century A.D.), Cilicius, Filagrius, Nicolaos (4th century A.D.).
Saint Neophytos monastery lies 10 km outside Pafos, near Tala village. Saint Neophytos was the founder of the monastery in 1159. He lived there and died in 1219 at the age of 85. The main church of the monastery was built around 200 years after his death and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
A famous painter, Theodoros Apsevdis, painted some exquisite Byzantine frescoes in the Enkleistra (hermitage) around 1192. You can also see Byzantine icons of exceptional artistic quality in the main church of the monastery and the monastery museum has exhibits from both the ancient and Byzantine periods.
Winter: 9.00 – 16.00
Summer: 9.00 – 13.00 and 14.00 – 18.00
Panagia Chrysorroyiatissa Monastery
This monastery is near Panagia village, west of the Pafos forest. Set in beautiful surroundings, the monastery was founded in 1152 A.D. by a monk called Ignatios who, in the Moulia area of Pafos, had found a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary believed to have been painted by Luke the Evangelist. Ignatios took the icon up the mountain and built the monastery dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate’.
The monastery, whose present building dates to 1770, has a collection of important icons and treasures. The church lies in the middle of the monastery and the frescoes above its three entrances are impressive. The gold and silver plated icon of Christ and the Virgin Mary in the monastery is also believed to have been painted by the Apostle Luke.
A centre for the protection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons and other treasures operated at the monastery and a Byzantine museum has recently been created. In front of the main entrance of the monastery there is a café restaurant with a majestic, panoramic view.
The monastery winery produces some of the island’s best wines.
An important religious ceremony and celebrations are held here on 15th August.
Saint Savvas tou Karonos
The Agios Savvas tis Karonos Monastery was originally built in the twelfth century, and was later restored by the Venetians. In 1467, the monastery was destroyed by fire; however, it was rebuilt with the assistance of the Cypriot king James II.
In 1533, the Agios Savvas tis Karonos Church was built on the monastery ruins. There is nothing to indicate why the monastery was once again ruined but the church was renovated in 1742. Since then, it has been repaired several times. It is still used as a church, though there are no regular services, owing to its remoteness.
Saint Georgios twn Komanwn
Located south east of Panagia village, in Mesana, is the Monastery of Agios Georgios which was built in the 15th century. The monastery’s church has recently been restored by the Department of Antiquities. What is noteworthy is that old hagiographies are preserved inside the church, including one which depicts the torture of Agios Georgios and one of the Archangel Michael.
Panagia tou Sinti
The abandoned monastery of Panagia tou Sinti is found on the banks of the Xeros River in Pentalia, and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Sinti.
The church has an octagonal dome with four windows and dates to the first half of the 16th century. Its central nave is in good condition, and it is considered to be one of the most important buildings of the Venetian period.
The Monastery remained in operation until 1927 and was later abandoned. In 1994, the Monastery of Kykkos undertook the maintenance of the Monastery, completing the work in 1997 when it earned the Europa Nostra Award for the use of good restoration techniques and preservation of its original characte
Monastery of Timios Stavros Minthis
3km to the southeast of Tsada village, this monastery appears to have prospered in the 16th and 17th centuries. The main part of the monastery which remains intact dates to the 18th century.
Holy monk Varnavas lives at the monastery and looks after it. In 2002 the Pafos Metropolis and Antiquities Department conducted conservation works at the Monastery.
Saint Georgios Nikoxilitis
Situated in Droushia village.
You will find the ancient monastery of Agios Georgios Nikoxilitis on the eastern side of Droushia village. This monastery is thought to have been built in the 15th century and was rebuilt in 1923 after it was destroyed by fire.
The Monastery of Agia Moni is located in the province of Paphos, between the Statos village and the Chrysorroyiatissa Monastery. This monastery is also known as ‘the monastery of the priests’ because many saints and priests have lived here, like Saint Nicolas the Great, Saint Eftychios, and also Saint Athanasius the Athonite who lived here between 965 and 969. In the vicinity of the monastery there is a 14th century chapel with a cross-shaped roof dedicated to Saint Athanasius.
Among the innumerable churches in the Pafos district, the most important are the following:
The church of Agia Paraskevi in Geroskipou is built in the form of a basilica with five cupolas placed in the shape of a cross and is one of the most important churches in Cyprus. Of a similar type is the basilica of the Saints Barnabas and Hilarion in the village of Peristerona in Lefkosia (Nicosia), but this dates to a later period. Agia Paraskevi was built in the 9th century A.D. and is preserved almost intact in its initial form apart from the western wall which was demolished in the 19th century in order to build an extension. Its uniqueness lies in the frescoes, some of which date back to the 9th century A.D. and are of the oldest in the whole of Cyprus. The 15th-16th century frescoes are also in relatively good condition.
These have a western influence – like many other frescoes in the island’s churches. The fresco depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the spandrel of the North Arch is a fine example of a genuine Byzantine fresco.
The frescoes are not the only ornaments found in Agia Paraskevi. On the icon stand are some fine 15th century icons. The most important is a famous two-sided icon with the Virgin Mary, the “Gerokipiotissa”, on one side and a depiction of the Crucifixion on the other.
This icon has often been included in remarkable Byzantine icons which have been sent to exhibitions abroad.
Agia Paraskevi Church
Agia Paraskevi Church
Winter: 8.00 – 13.00 and 14.00 – 16.00
Summer: 8.00 – 13.00 and 14.00 – 17.00
Ρanagia Chryseleousa is in the village of Emba, 3 km north of Pafos. It is a stone-built cruciform edifice with a dome, built at the beginning of the 13th century. The original frescoes date to the 13th century, but most of them were added in the 15th century. Some of the excellent icons are from the 16th century.
It is three-aisled with two domes and is a combination of two churches. The eastern section was first built in the 12th century, possibly on the ruins of an earlier Christian basilica, as a cruciform church with a dome.
Later, in the 13th century, an extension was made to the west with a domed cross-in-square type building.
It houses valuable wall paintings of the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th centuries. Notable is a fresco representing the miracle of fishing.
Other ecclesiastical treasures include 15th and 16th century portable icons. Among them is a noteworthy icon of Jesus holding a Gospel, and a fine icon painted on two panels with the Apostles, six on each panel.
Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Early Byzantine basilica on the island. Within the compound one can see St. Paul’s Pillar, where according to tradition Saint Paul was flogged before the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.
Originally the church was seven–aisled, but it was later reduced to five aisles. The floor of the basilica was covered with colourful mosaics, some of which are still preserved.
Panagia Theoskepasti means ‘Veiled by God’. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and tradition has it that a fog was sent by God to protect the original church during the Arab raids. The fog made it invisible to the Arabs as they approached it, and it thus avoided destruction.
The modern church was built in 1923. It sits on a rock overlooking the whole Kato Pafos area. Hundreds of people, both locals and visitors, visit the church every day to admire the splendid wood-carved iconostasis and the exceptional icons as well as to pray to the miraculous silver-covered icon of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to be one of seventy painted by Luke the Evangelist.
Situated in Kato Pafos near the harbour, Panagia Limeniotissa was built in the early 5th century and dedicated to “Our Lady of the Harbour” (“Limeniotissa”). It was badly damaged during the 7th-century Arab raids, but later restored. However, an earthquake in the 12th century completely destroyed it.
Visitors can still see some colourful mosaics and a few restored columns.
Agios Georgios Basilica
Agios Georgios Basilica lies near a fishing refuge 4.5 km from the village of Pegeia among the ruins of two early Christian basilicas with some very interesting mosaic floors depicting animals.
There are also rock-hewn tombs from the Roman period overlooking the sea.
Agia Solomoni church and catacombs
The church of Agia Solomoni is in Kato Pafos, on Apostolos Pavlos avenue, about a kilometre from the port. It was carved underground out of limestone and was originally a catacomb, although some archaeologists suggest that it was originally a graveyard dating back to the Hellenistic period.
Visitors go down some twenty steps to see the church, the remains of 12th century frescoes and the Holy Water.
On the rock above the church, there is a centuries old terebinth tree. Hanging a personal offer, usually a handkerchief, is believed to cure the ailments of those who hang it, and many people, both locals and visitors, still do this today.
Αgioi Kyrikos and Joulitta
The church of Αgioi Kyrikos and Julitta is in the village of Letimbou. It was built in the 15th century. Very few of its frescoes have survived.
Agia Ekaterini lies between the villages of Kritou Terra and Choli. It is a three-aisled edifice with a dome and a narthex. Built in the 15th century, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953. Today it is in ruins, even though it was restored in 1956. Very few of its frescoes have survived.
Agios Theodosios is found in Achelia. It is a cruciform building with a dome, built in the 13th century and decorated with fine wall paintings.
Panagia Katholiki is situated in the village of Kouklia. It is of the cruciform type with a dome and is situated to the east of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. Most probably it was built in the 13th century and modified in the 16th century. It has 16th century and older wall-paintings.
Archangelos Michael lies in a very secluded spot in the village of Choli to the north of Kouklia. It is a 16th century single-aisle vaulted building with an elevated narthex added later. Its frescoes also date to the 16th century. It is a small chapel cut out of rock and supposedly used by St. Neophytos, before he moved to his hermitage near Pafos.
Agios Georghios lies southwest of the village of Choulou. It is a one-aisled church with a dome and a vaulted narthex, decorated with fine frescoes of the 12th century.
Panagia Chorteni is situated north of the village of Pelathousa. It is a single-aisled church with a dome, decorated with frescoes.