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Church of Panagia (Our Lady) Angeloktisti, Kition Toumpouri, Marina


The church of Panagia Angeloktisti (meaning “built by angels” in Greek) was erected in the village of Kiti in Cyprus. According to the foundation legend, the population of ancient Kition moved to the present village of Kiti for fleeing the Arab invasions. In their new dwelling they set about to build a church in honour of the Virgin. During the construction of the church, the foundations had moved to a different location overnight. After the occurrence of the miracle, they continued to build the church on the new site and returned every morning to find that work had progressed overnight in their absence. Many claimed to have seen an army of angels building the church and hence they proclaimed it “Angeloktisti”. Yet, almost nothing is known for certain about the early settlement of the village and the foundation of the church. The present structure was built in the 11th century, over the ruins of a 5th-century basilica that was destroyed most probably around the 7th or the 8th century. The columnar basilica had three aisles, an eastern apse, lateral apsidioles, and a wooden roof. It combined a variety of decorative elements, including an apse mosaic, marble revetments, and stucco relief. The exposed stucco on the east wall suggests that the mosaic was always confined to the space of the apse conch. The apse with the semi-circular synthronon and the famous mosaic depicting the Virgin of the earlier basilica was incorporated into the domed cross-in-square 11th-century structure. The current form of the church is a result of later additions and alterations. In the 12th century, a barrel-vaulted chapel dedicated to saints Kosmas and Damianos was added to the north. Between the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century, another chapel –the so-called Latin chapel– was built to the south for the needs of the Catholic population. The three coats-of-arms that still survive above the Latin chapel’s entrance belong to the Frankish family Gibelet, who have been the patrons of the chapel. The presence in the chapel of the tombstone of Simone Renier de Gibelet, who died in 1302 confirms this. It furthermore suggests that the chapel may have had a funerary character. The mosaic in the conch of the apse is considered one of the most significant and elaborate mosaics of the Early Christian period. It was likely created in the 6th century. It depicts the Virgin standing on a stool, holding Christ in her left arm, against a golden background. On the Virgin’s right is Archangel Michael and on her left is Archangel Gabriel. The Archangels hold a sceptre and offer a globe with a cross to the Virgin and Child. The mosaic is the oldest, surviving monumental representation of the standing Virgin holding the Child with her left arm. On the inscription she is referred to as “Η ΑΓΙΑ ΜΑΡΙΑ” (“Holy Mary”) instead of Theotokos (“Mother of God”). Hence, the inscription is intriguing, since the Virgin is named thus only in the Monophysite districts of Anatolia. The mosaic is surrounded by a border that depicts a total of six fountains flanked by pairs of confronted or addorsed animals (stags) or birds (ducks, parrots). The mosaic has two decorative borders. At the base of the mosaic the border is wide with geometric and floral decoration. Beneath the lower border is a narrow border with a crowstep pattern in red and white. The apse mosaic was framed by stucco decoration. The church was decorated with wall-paintings in the 13th century which were uncovered in the main church and the north chapel. Fragments of paintings from the 14th, and 15th to 16th centuries also survive, with overpainting ascribed to the 18th century. The church is furnished with a wooden iconostasis of the 16th century. The Church of Panagia Angeloktisti was submitted as a possible UNESCO World Heritage Site in September 2015 and is currently listed on the Tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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