Some Selections from the Archbishop Makarios III Byzantine Musem in Nicosia, Cyprus

On the Greek side of Cyprus’s divided capital, Nicosia, there is a Byzantine Museum within the palace complex of the archbishop (see here), containing art works from the 9th century to the 19th.

IMG_4554

I figured that my loyal reader(s) might want to see some selections of what’s in there as of 2016.

Interestingly, many of the works in here have come from churches in the northeastern part of the country, which, depending on whom you ask, is either the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus or the Turkish-occupied section of Cyprus. Sadly, these were largely looted and stripped from these churches and sold, often abroad, before being repatriated.

As it would make little sense to send them back to their places of provenance, they are displayed here. In one particular case, the veneer of a small, looted chapel is almost completely reconstructed onto specially-shaped walls of the museum.

Continue reading

Gorgeous Photos of the Ethiopian Christian Churches of Abyssinia

Quartz has published (on Christmas day, those diligent folks!) a beautiful photo essay on the early Christian churches of Abyssinia (now in Ethiopia and Eritrea). The photos come from a book entitled Ethiopia: The Living Churches of an Ancient Kingdom, by the American University of Cairo Press.

Many of these rock-hewn churches and their very early frescoes are beautifully preserved, and while not technically Byzantine, are similar in many ways and certainly worth looking at. In many respects they remind me of the rock-cut churches and frescoes of central Turkey, especially Cappadocia. The latter frescoes are, honestly, not well-preserved at all, and in many cases vandalized quite a bit, so it’s nice to see some in great condition.

Other of the smaller, non-rock-cut churches are reminiscent of the later small churches and monastery chapels from the late medieval period in the Troodos region of central Cyprus. Take a look at the Debre Berhan Selassie Church in Quartz’s photos and see if you don’t similarities yourself.

This is a wonderful set of photos, and you should really check it out.

Byzantine Cyprus 1: The Panagia Phorviotissa Tis Asinou

In the northern reaches of Greek Cyprus, a stone’s throw from the UN-imposed “Green Line,” separating Greek Cyprus from Turkish Cyprus, there is a village called Nikitari. About three kilometers south of Nikitari, the intrepid traveler – who has braved mountainous terrain, narrow roads, and a steering wheel on the wrong side of the car – will find the Church of Panagia Phorviotissa. And the traveler will be rewarded for his perils.

The church is also called Panagia tis Asinou, which derives from the name of the ancient village founded nearby by settlers from Asine, a city in Argolis named in Homer as among the possessions of the formidable Diomedes. Somewhere over the years, Asine morphed into Asinou.

IMG_7216~

This church belonged to a monastery since fallen into disuse and then complete ruin: the monastery “of the Phorvia [or Phorbia],” which is probably derived either from a wild plant called “ephorbium” or from “phorbe,” or pasture. Many appellations of Mary in Cyprus derive from the natural world. If Panagia Phorviotissa tis Asinou is too much of a mouthful for you, try Our Lady of the Pasture. Just don’t expect to find that on Google Maps.

Nowadays, Panagia Phorviotissa belongs to the select group of “Painted Churches” protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, although that group falls woefully short of covering the whole set of Byzantine-Cypriot churches.

Continue reading