Did you know that Cyprus has a large number of monuments of religious heritage, which are an indication of the island’s historical journey to Christianity? Cyprus’ religious heritage is rooted mainly in the Christian tradition, but has influences from other religions making it one of the richest in the world!
While strolling around Larnaca it is worth a visit to the stone Church of St Lazarus, located in its own square in the city centre, just above the Saint’s tomb. It is one of the most remarkable examples of Byzantine architecture in Cyprus.
It was built by the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in the 9th century and despite the fact that the three domes and the original bell tower of the church were destroyed during the early years of Turkish rule, the gold-covered iconostasis has survived to this day and is an excellent example of Baroque woodcarving. St Lazarus came to Cyprus after the Resurrection of Jesus, was ordained Bishop of Kition and lived in the city for 30 years. Next to the church is the Byzantine Museum, which houses important religious icons, objects and relics.
You can also visit the Byzantine church in Kiti, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is from the 11th century and means “built by angels”. The original arch of the basilica is preserved along with one of the finest pieces of Byzantine art on the island, a rare 6th century mosaic of the Virgin and Child between the two Archangels Michael and Gabriel, which rivals the mosaics of Ravenna in Italy. Such mosaics of this period have been discovered only in Cyprus and on Mount Sina.
After the 11th century, additions were made to the building. The Franks added a new façade and bell tower. The sanctuary houses a very old and unique icon from the 10th century, depicting the Virgin Mary, St Lazarus and St Luke the Evangelist. According to legend, the three were family friends and they all met at Kition during the first difficult years of Christianity on the island.
Visitors to Cyprus who are interested in learning about the religious and cultural tradition of the island and its connection with Christianity can follow the EduTourism proposal by combining education with tourism.
The EduTourism project is implemented in the framework of the INTERREG V-A Cooperation Programme “Greece – Cyprus 2014-2020” and is co-financed by the European Union (E.T.P.A.) and the National Funds of Greece and Cyprus.