Glyn Hughes

13 July 2006
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Book chronicles Byzantine churches of Troodos

AS the cars squeeze bumper to bumper promoting affluence on wheels and faces at the steering grow longer and longer, and sadder too, think of somewhere quiet. The Troodos Mountains, for instance.

A lavish new book - Byzatine Architecture in the Troodos Mountains - is full of lovely drawings, sketches and watercolours by leading Cyprus architect Andreas Philippou.

His firm has been responsible for some of the most outstanding Cypriot architectural landmarks in recent years and he shows that he can appreciate the work of those who have gone before and who worked on a slightly smaller, but equally-beautiful scale.

Bishop Nikiforos of the Holy Monastery of Kykkos said of the book: "Mr Andreas Philippou has all the qualifications that render him capable of undertaking such a task as this one here.

"He is a distinguished architect and is, therefore, well equipped to study and appreciate the monuments.

"Also, the fact that his origins from the Troodos region, has given him the necessary spiritual experience of these churches.

The bishop added that the difficulty of access to the Troodos mountains created a fundamental chapter in the history and tradition of Cyprus.

During the insecure times of invasion by alien tribes of diverse religions, the indigenous population found refuge in these mountains. There, they organised themselves into village communities and built churches that were essential for their existence and the arrangement of their lives.

"There, in the wilderness, where God keeps an eye on everything, monasteries were built, amongst which is the renowned Panagia Eleousa tou Kykkou, which has served as a model for the construction of other churches.

"The physical environment influenced the monuments of the region, gave birth to them, to use a vivid expression and endowed them with qualities, which made them an integral part of it."

Byzantinist Athanasios Papageorgiou also waxes lyrical about this excellent book.

"This album of watercolours, pencil and ink drawings of the timber-roofed churches in the Troodos mountains, is a welcome addition to the study of this unique architectural style, which is found only in Cyprus.

"Neither in Greece nor in the Balkans or even in Asia Minor do we come across similar examples of this singular timber construction.

Of course, timber roofs, especially pitched ones, exist outside Cyprus too, in Central and Northern Europe but they do not have the uniqueness of the roofs found in the churches of the Troodos mountains, which are perfectly adapted to the environment they sprang from."

The author and artist says in The Preface:

"The idea of this publication dates back to my student days when, for my fifth year Diploma project in Architecture and Urban design, I had to submit a written thesis the subject matter of which had to be related to a particular aspect of the History of Architecture and Art.

"I think that my decision to take the "Byzantine Architecture in the Troodos Mountains" as the subject of my thesis was subconscious but also natural because in the village of Galata, where I come from, there are seven of these churches.

Since my return to Cyprus from my studies, I have continued my research and sketching. Over the years I have completed many watercolours and drawings for most of these churches. This meant intense and consistent effort but I always viewed it as a creative and enjoyable preoccupation in my leisure time.

"It has added another dimension to my architectural endeavours through watercolours, a medium that I love immensely."

From the little that is known of the monuments of the early Christian period, Cyprus held quite an important position in the Near East at that time, as evidenced by the remains of the basilicas at Salamis and the great basilicas found at Soli, Kourion and Paphos, as well as in other areas of Cyprus

In the second Golden Age of Byzantine art, in the time of the Macedonian emperors, Cyprus shared fully in the flourishing of the arts and particularly architecture with different types of plans and styles, illustrated by the churches at Kiti, Antifonitis at Kalograia, Arsinou, Geroskipou and Salamis.

After the arrival of the Lusignans at 1192 and the Latin clergy, native churches were influenced by Gothic architecture imported to Cyprus by the crusaders.

Thus the "Franco-Byzantine" style was produced, which is a combination of the Gothic basilica and the Byzantine domed hall church.

"With this new style came the European construction technology as well. We have excellent examples of this style in the remains of the church of Agios Georgios of the Greeks in Famagusta, the church of Ayios Nikolaos "the Bedestan" or Chrysodeistria in Nicosia, the church of Agia Aikaterini at Kritou-Terra, that of the Archangel near Nicosia and later, that of Ayios Mamas in Morphou, the church at the Monastery of Ayios Neophytos and the remains of the church of Ayios Mamas at Ayios Sozemenos.

"There are also several examples of Catholic chapels which have survived as additions to some of the Byzantine churches, such as the chapel at Kiti and Ayios Ioannis the Lampadistis at Kalopanagiotis.

"The Frankish ruling class never mixed with the local population, and thus did not employ local builders or artists in the construction and decoration of their churches until the late Middle Ages. The greatest achievements of Gothic architecture are therefore alien to the tradition of the island, being examples rather of a superimposed Frankish colonial art. It appears that the artists were Greeks belonging to the Orthodox faith, as evidenced in the murals of the (Gothic) church of St Anna in Famagusta and the royal chapel at Pyrga, Larnaka. It is possible that there were also Franco-Levantine artists.

Helios School Exhibition at Argo

OF COURSE, I’m biased. Children are the best artists and a long look at Helios’ annual show convinces me once again.

Imagination spinning into positive flights of fantasy, still lifes and nature drawing pinning down reality and PORTRAITS; well not since the first generation of artists of years ago have we liked people so much and not treated them as the continuation of faces on adverts.

These are living, breathing human beings. Congratulations Rhea Afantitou. Once again.

 

Photo captions

A: Editorial selection of paintings from the book Byzantine Architecture in the Troodos Mountains by Andreas Philippou.

B: "Helios at Argo"

A young student looks for her portrait in the window of Argo during sthe Helios exhibition.

 
 
 27April2006   Art by Glyn Hughes - Cyprus weekly news paper           web creator  and updater V.P.Vasuhan -    http://vpvasuhan.tripod.com     @  redindian001   - Art work shop paris