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Antiphonitis church

Coordinates: 35.3273 N 33.6191 E
No:443        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Churches
Values:Art, Architecture, History
Rank:5
Address:Asia, Cyprus, Kyrenia District, some 5 - 6 km south-east from Esentepe in Kyrenia mountains, near Kalogrea
Alternate names:Antiphanitis, Antifonitis
Name in Greek:Εκκλησία Αντιφωνητής
Architectural style:Byzantine (the 12th century structure), Gothic (additions in the 15th century)
Year of construction:the 7th century (parts), the 12th century, with additions from the 14th - 15th centuries
Branch of Christianity:Eastern Orthodox
Antiphonitis Church, Cyprus
Antiphonitis church / Nevilley, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Interesting monument of Cypriot medieval art is Antiphonitis Church - church with unusual architecture and remnants of valuable frescoes. Unfortunately it has been looted and part of its value has been lost forever.

History

Antiphonitis ("Christ who Responds") was built in the mountains of Northern Cyprus, in a picturesque, remote forest.

First church was built here in the 7th century and soon after here was founded monastery. Both buildings were reconstructed in the 12th century, when the interior of the church was adorned with frescoes in Byzantine style. Works were organized by a monk, who came here from Asia Minor.

This unknown monk built an elegant, unusual structure. Dome of the church rests on eight columns - four are built into the walls and four are free standing. This is the only remaining church of this type in Cyprus.

Later, in the 14th - 15th centuries were built supplementary parts of the church - loggia with a barrel vault in Gothic style. These works were done in the times when Cyprus was controlled by Lusignan kings - people of Western European descent.

As the time went by, monastery was destroyed and just a church is standing here up to this day.

Unfortunately it was badly maintained. Worst times started in 1974, when Turks took over this part of the island. Since then huge amount of Christian heritage art values have been smuggled.

Unfortunately Antiphonitis church lost most of its valuable frescoes and it is even a miracle that the remaining ones are still there.

Interior and frescoes of Antiphonitis Church, Cyprus
Interior and frescoes / Nevilley, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Frescoes

In earlier times whole interior of Antiphonitis was covered with frescoes. Part of this artwork was created in the 12th century, in Byzantine style.

Very interesting though are later frescoes from the 15th century. These paintings have distinct style - here is seen both the influence of traditional Byzantine art and the Italian art from the 14th century.

This art represents a specific event in the local history of culture - so called "Cypriot Renaissance". This movement in art was started by Cypriot painters who worked in Venice and brought home the influence of Renaissance art.

Thus, the fresco of the Last Judgement (now destroyed) had many similarities to Giotto's fresco at the Chapel of Scrovegni in Padua, Italy. (1)

The most valuable remaining paintings are:

  • Depiction of Christ Pantokrator (Christ the Enthroned), made in the 15th century. This artwork is located in the centre of dome. There have been several attempts to remove it but this time smugglers failed.
  • Fresco of Virgin Blachernitissa with Christ Child and archangels Gabriel and Michael. According to local beliefs this fresco was made of wax which was mixed with the ashes of Christian martyrs who were killed in the 6th century. (2)

Although most of art values have been lost forever, some positive things happen as well - some artworks are returned to Cyprus, such as four smuggled icons of Apostles in August 2013. These icons are now in the Republic of Cyprus and will be returned to the Antiphonitis church after the country will be unified.

Map

See Antiphonitis church on the map of Cyprus!

 

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