At first glance, this 12th-century church looks pretty modest. But step inside, and you’ll enter a space filled with breathtaking Byzantine paintings.
Panagia tu Araka is one of Cyprus’ painted churches. It was built in the 12th century as part of a monastery, and its interior is an exceptional example of Byzantine art.
Gorgeous, vibrant murals cover the church’s ceiling and walls. Colorful images of Biblical figures stand out against an indigo background. The quality of the centuries-old art is astounding, and it’s all been incredibly well preserved. In fact, the building boasts the most complete set of frescoes from Cyprus’ Middle Byzantine period.
Amazingly, the paintings managed to survive even as the building expanded and was renovated over the centuries. It’s believed most of the murals were painted around 1192 by Theodoros Apsevdis, though the two near the altar are thought to be a bit older and painted by someone else. The image of the Virgin Mary that adorns the blind arch above the entrance was painted in the 14th century, and the picture of the saints on the exterior north wall were added in 1673.
The exterior of the church is interesting, too. Though the actual church itself is made of stone, a protective timber roof was added sometime in the 14th century.
The monastery was in use until the early 19th century. Thankfully, the building wasn’t allowed to fall into disrepair and the beautiful artwork inside has been protected and preserved. In 1985, the church was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.