Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 12, 2017

Last visit to the mountains

Our days here are drawing to a close, so we made one last trip up into the mountains, to spend the night in the serenely quiet village of Kalo Chorio. After dark, I stepped outside to listen to the silence. The lone cricket who sang to me back in the summer was too cold to sing. All I heard was…nothing. Actually, that’s not true. The village was so very quiet that I could hear my blood swooshing past my eardrums. We spent the evening tucked into the village house doing little but relaxing.

When we woke up, we packed, said goodbye to the Kalo Chorio house, and headed deeper into the mountains to find the Medieval church of Panagia Phorviotissa Asinou. We had heard about it and its fine frescoes but had not seen it in all our traipsing around the mountains. Today we discovered the reason we had not happened upon it. You really, really must want to go to that spot, because it’s not on the way to anywhere else! [Of course, this is not the only mountain church of Cyprus that can make that claim!]

The multi-colored stone church sits in a lovely mountainside setting and was once part of a monastery whose other buildings have long since crumbled into oblivion. The church itself was built in 1105/6 and the walls are covered with frescoes of saints and biblical scenes. Many of the frescoes were painted when the church was new; others were painted in the 14th century or as late as the 18th century. Like many of the churches with this much age on them, the churches have been damaged or undergone alterations over the years. Sometimes this was because of an earthquake, but normal aging was often the culprit.

Two of the three buttresses are visible here on the side of the church.

The church had two buttresses and a flying buttress added centuries ago, all because of weakened walls. Those changes are pretty clear to see on the outside.

One of the original doors (at left) was closed when the church was relatively new. The resulting frescoes inside give hints that they are not as old as the ones around them.

Inside, the frescoes offer so much to see that it’s easy to overlook signs of modification. But if you slow down and begin to study them, you will spot places where pieces of fresco and plaster have fallen away to reveal an even earlier fresco underneath. We also found evidence of restoration and fortification (maybe after one of those earthquakes), in which new internal buttresses and arches were added to the inside walls, covering up portions of older frescoes. These internal additions were then painted with frescoes that blend in so well with the original ones that the modifications are not obvious to the casual observer. I am not posting any photos of the inside of the church, but you can find some lovely examples of these frescoes if you scroll down on this page: https://noticketback.com/2016/08/31/painted-churches-of-cyprus-1-the-panagia-phorviotissa-tis-asinou/

People came and went while we were there, but we were in no hurry. Several artists spent thousands of hours of work in the course of the centuries to create these beautiful frescoes. The colors of the clothing, the piercing gazes of the saints, even the lettering styles vary according to artist and time period. I wonder when archaeological techniques will advance enough (perhaps they already have) so that we can have some idea of how many frescoes lie beneath the surface paintings.

After we left the church, we drove to Nicosia and had a delicious grilled seafood lunch with friends we made during our previous project in Cyprus. We had planned, then, to take the motorway from Nicosia back to our flat in Limassol. But those mountains, quiet as they are, have a clear voice that called us back. So we shunned the easy way and took instead the winding, steep, slowly-slowly way that led back to Kalo Chorio for one more night tucked away in the clear, quiet retreat of the village.

The sun was on its way down as we made our way back to Kalo Chorio for one last night in the mountains.

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Responses

  1. Ahhhh, one more visit to Kalo Chorio is a wonderful conclusion to your weekend trip. I am picturing you there, soaking up the silence.

    Like


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