Villages between Machairas and Adelfol Forests
Route: Palaichori, Askas, Fterikoudi, Alona, Platanistasa, Stavros tou Agiasmati, Alithinou, Livadia, Poly-stypos, Lagoudera – church of Panagia tou Araka, Saranti
Palaichori. Close to the settlement of Palaichori, on a conspicuous hill, stands the Monument of Mother with the bas-reliefs of three heroes who died in the Liberation Struggle of Cyprus (1955-59), namely Matsis, Karaolis and Georgiou. Nothing of the dissolved medieval and pre-medieval settlements of Maroullena, Myllouri, Kato Apliki, Agios Nikolaos, Agia Koroni, Antonies, etc which formed Palaichori, survives today. Apart from the traditional architecture of Palaichori, the visitor can explore a few sites of interest: (a) The church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, overlooking the eastern part of the settlement, is of the steep-pitched-roof type dating back to the 16th century with an enclosure of the 17th century. There are two rows of frescoes, with saints depicted on the lower and scenes from the Bible on the upper row. In the bema are depicted the Hospitality of Abraham, the Sacrifice of Isaak, and Virgin Mary among Angels. The Communion of the Apostles is one of the finest compositions of the church. (b) The church of Panagia Chrysopantanassa, close to the central square of the village, is three-aisled, timber-roofed with a gilted iconostasis and some valuable portable icons. Even the arches that separate the aisles are painted. The frescoes comprise a cycle of the Life of Christ, a cycle of the life of Virgin Mary and the life and miracles of St. Nicholas and a cycle of eight scenes concerning the Discovery of the Holy Cross. The church belongs to the 16th century. (c) The church of Agios Georgios is three-aisled with arches like the church of Chrysopantanassa. Most probably the original iconostasis and the beams are preserved. Two recesses host Agia Marina and her life as well as St. George with some landmarks of his life.
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The dam of Palaichori was built in 1973 on a narrow valley of Kampi, with a capacity of 620.000 cubic metres of water. It is frequented by amateur fishermen on week-ends. As many as 150 ha of land with strawberries, potatoes, orchards, and vegetables are irrigated. (e) The church of Agios Loukas is recent, since nothing remains of the ancient church, while the church of Agioi Kosmas and Damianos, about 1.5km outside the village, dates probably to the 16th century.
Askas. The village comprises some exceptionally interesting samples of traditional architecture, with extremely narrow and winding streets. Donkeys are still used for the transport of goods from the household to the central square of the village or to the field. Three churches are worth visiting: (a) The church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos, dates from the 16th century, though restored in 1763. It is three-aisled with arches separating the aisles and it is covered by a steep-pitched wooden roof. Some of the paintings in the apse are Virgin Mary attended by the Archangels, while the prelates occupy the bottom zone. The greater part of both sides of the south arcade are covered with scenes from the life of St. John Prodromos. (b) The church of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) appears recent, three-aisled with a modern iconostasis. A few portable icons are preserved. (c) The church of Agia Christina, known to the villagers as church of Agia Paraskevi, lies about 3km west of the village. It is of the mountain type with timber roof and flat tiles, built in 1518 but extended west in 1901. On the south and north walls are depicted individual saints, and the donors. Very interesting is the Holy Handkerchief and the dedicatory inscription. In the bema is depicted the Sacrifice of Isaak, Virgin Mary attended by the Archangels Gabriel and Michael, as well as the Annunciation. Fterikoudi. North-east of Askas lies Fterikoudi in a rugged mountainous scenery with deep steep-sided valleys and sharp ridges. A centuries-old oak-tree in the central square presents a peculiar phenomenon with one of its branches embodied in two others. Most probably the church of Abbakoum is tied up with the original nucleus of the settlement. Though the church has been restored, the original foundations are preserved in the underground. Alona. Its traditional architecture with a few renovated houses is impressive. The climbing vines in front of the houses and particularly the hazelnuts in the valley constitute the main agricultural produce of the village. Two churches, that of Panagia Kardakiotissa, single-aisled and steep-pitched, and that of Agios Georgios, three-aisled with bas-reliefs on its low belfry and a carved gilted iconostasis, are worth visiting. Platanistasa. The very attractive traditional architecture, the hazelnut cultivations along the valley, the climbing vines in front of the houses and the all-red empty large wine jars where wine was stored in the past, are what the visitor sees in this charming village. The church of Agios loannis Vaptistis (St. John the Baptist) restored in 1740, with its gilted iconostasis lies next to the main street. The three-aisled, steep-pitched church of Archangelos Michail, on a rise, was restored in 1916 as well as recently. The most distinctive feature of the church are the plates decorating the walls, a habit that goes back to the Byzantine era. Very high on the slope, stands the chapel of Panagia Katafigiotissa (of the Refuge). According to tradition, it was here that the villagers found refuge during the difficult years of Ottoman rule. The view from the chapel is boundless and panoramic. The church of Stavros tou Agiasmati (Holy Cross of Agiasmati). Following a winding, earthen road, about 3km north of Platanistasa, you reach the isolated medieval church of Stavros tou Agiasmati. The nearby spring of water is as old as the church, which in the 15th century was part of a monastery. The foundations of the cells are still visible. The church with a steep-pitched roof and flat tiles extends to an outer enclosure, resulting in a church within a church. The dedicatory inscription concerning the construction of the church is over the north door, while over the south door is the dedicatory inscription of the decoration. Frescoes appear in two rows. In the upper row scenes from the Holy Bible are depicted, while in the lower row the visitor can see Saints. Two impressive arched recesses, close to the iconostasis, host Archangel Michail and a Wooden Cross with ten small paintings of St. Helena. The compositions from the Bible are very impressive and of exquisite agiographic art. The visitor could focus his attention on the Birth of Christ, Baptism, The Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Washing of the Feet, the Denial of Peter, the Mocking, the Lamentation, the Dormition of the Mother of God, the Triumphal Entry of Constantine the Great into Rome and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In the bema Virgin Mary is one of the finest paintings of the church. The iconostasis is gilted with a few portable icons while on the exterior west wall the Last Judgement is depicted. The frescoes of Stavros tou Agiasmati, of the 15th century, constitute a transitory stage from the Byzantine to the Rennaissance Art.
Panagia Arakiotissa, 12th c. A.D. wall painting, Lagoudera (Photo, courtesy of the Dept. of Antiquities) Alithinou. The traditional architecture of this depopulated village with wooden balconies supported by wooden pillars and the church of Agioi Ioakeim and Anna are what the visitor can see. Livadia. A few traditional houses with sloping tiled roofs and wooden balconies, a few paved tracks within the settlement and the climbing vines is what the visitor can see in Livadia. Polystypos. Within the settlement some traditional houses, the plethoric presence of hydrangeas and the climbing vines impress the visitor. Worth visiting is the steep-pitched church of Agios Andreas, originally a monastery, built with local building stone. The iconostasis and the women’s gallery are very old, while traces of frescoes can be discerned. Lagoudera. Worth visiting is the church of Agios Georgios which dates from the 16th century. It is a small shedlike building constructed with local igneous material having a gilted iconostasis and a few valuable portable icons, three of which are worth mentioning: the icon with the Madonna and Christ of 1560, a triptych with Christ amid Virgin Mary and John the Baptist of 1593 and Christ alone of 1620. Lagoudera, is however, world famous for its Byzantine church, known as Panagia of Araka. The church is also known as “Arakos”, or “Arakiotissa”. The domed church, of the 12th century A.D., is single-aisled with three arched recesses in the side walls. The building is covered with a later steep-pitched roof which extends to a later enclosure. The extension to the west is a subsequent feature. The interior of the church is completely covered with paintings of the mid-Byzantine period. The dedicatory inscription over the north door records the decoration of the church. Impressive frescoes are: Christ Pantokrator looking down from the dome with detached serenity, the presentation of Virgin Mary to the Temple, the Birth of Christ, the Baptism, the Crucifixion and the Ascension of Christ. The Dormition of the Holy Mother of God is regarded as a masterpiece of Byzantine art. Christ stands erect holding his mother’s soul while the apostles mourn in two groups. Virgin Mary Arakiotissa is depicted on the wall of the south central recess. In the bema, where frescoes are preserved in vivid colours, the visitor can see Virgin Mary enthroned with Christ seated in her lap, attended by archangels Gabriel and Michael. A series of frescoes from Saints and Prelates follows. The gilted iconostasis dates from 1673. Saranti. A few houses preserve the traditional architecture of the mountainous villages of Pitsilia. Perhaps the most important site of interest is the church of Agioi Konstantinos and Eleni, of the 16th century, with a few frescoes like that of last Supper, of Sts. Constantine & Helena, the Hospitality of Abraham, etc.
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(c) Cedar Valley, Tripylos.
The cedar trees (Cedrus brevifolia) of Cyprus grow mainly in the Cedar Valley, Tripylos, Platres, Pedoulas, Platania, Kampos and Troodos on a relief exceeding 900m. Cedars are restricted, even on an international scale, since apart from Cyprus, they grow in Lebanon, in the Atlas mountains and the Himalayas. The Cedar Valley and Tripylos are two distinctive areas where the visitor can enjoy this majestic tree. Cedar Valley. The best route is from Kykko monastery towards Tsakistra. Before the visitor approaches Tsakistra, he can follow the forest road to the left and, at the junction of the roads leading to the Pafos forest, he can follow the road towards Panagia. Cedars appear at the beginning mixed with other forest trees, while later a whole valley is covered with cedar trees with their branches appearing as carpets the one above the other. Tripylos is the highest peak of western Cyprus, lying between Stavros tis Psokas and Kykkos. The visitor can take the road from Kykko monastery towards Tsakistra, following the first forest road to the left with a direction towards Stavros tis Psokas. From the locality “Dodeka Anemoi” (Twelve Winds) the visitor follows a southern direction. Dodeka Anemoi is an isolated locality often affected by strong winds. Cedar-trees around Tripylos are denser than in the Cedar Valley. The feeling is that of a gigantic umbrella placed on the slopes of Tripylos and stretching for a few kilometres.
(d) Kykkos Monastery and adjacent villages
Route: Kykkos Monastery, Mylikouri, Tsakistra, Kampos
Kykkos Monastery. Situated west of Marathasa valley, at a height of about 1150 metres a.s.l., Kykkos monastery is the most renowned monastery in Cyprus and well-known throughout the Orthodox world. The exact name of the monastery is Holy, Royal and Stavropegaic Monastery of Kykkos. (Its object is holy, it was built during the reign and with the contribution of Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komninos and Stavro-pegaic because it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of the See in which it is situated). The fame of the monastery throughout Orthodoxy is mainly due to the icon of Virgin Mary, hosted in the monastery, and believed to be painted by St. Luke. The icon, one of the three painted by St. Luke, while the Mother of Christ was alive, is much venerated by Cypriots, who visit the monastery and pray to the icon regularly, but particularly on the 15th August and the 8th of September. The monastery is of Byzantine origin, founded by Isaias, a hermit, probably at the end of the 11th century, during the reign of Alexios Komninos. Isaias with the help of Virgin Mary cured Voutomitis, the duke of Cyprus, from sciatica, who subsequently announced the miracle to Alexios Komninos, whose daughter suffered from the same disease too.
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