The church of Panagia Forviotissa is mainly known as the Virgin of Asinou. It is located in the northern foothills of the Troodos Mountains and is built three kilometers south of the village Nikitari. Since 1985 this church has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Monument.
|Duration: 60 minutes|
|Lectures: 3 lectures|
|Video: 1 video|
|Activities, Exercise and Quiz|
The church is what has remained from the Catholic Monastery of Forbians. Above the southern entrance of the church there is an inscription of 1105/6, which refers to the getter and founder of the monastery, the Magister Nikiforos Ischyrios (later known as monk Nikolaos). The foundation of the monastery dates back to 1099 and the monastery continued to function during the Tourkokratia (Ottoman occupation). It was abandoned in the late 18th century.
During the period of Latinokratia (Latin Domination) there was not much information saved regarding the Virgin of Asinou monastery. What we know about come from inscriptions on the frescoes of the church and from different notes in Parisian Code 1590. From the code we learn that Ischyrios died in the monastery he founded (on November 16, 1115) while there are also other references (abbots and monks death dates the monastery between the 12th and 15th century).
The church consists of two parts: the nave- mainly vaulted- church and the narthex, which was added during the second half of the 12th century. The side walls of the vestibule lead to the apse. The church was already covered in the 12th century with a second wooden roof with flat hooked tiles. Today there are no traces of the remaining monastic buildings.
The frescoes of the church were created in different periods. The most important ones were painted in the early years (1105 – 1106) and express the new trends of painting of the period of Komninon. The frescoes, which are one of the most important sets of Byzantine art of the period, seem to have been influenced by the art of “Polis” (Constantinople). The artist who created them came probably from Constantinople. The frescoes of the Ascension in the eastern part of the arch, the Communion of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church in the semicircular wall of the apse, the Annunciation and the Communion of Saint Mary the Egyptian in the north and south of arch, all of them belong in the first time phase of the frescoes.
In the 14th century the church suffered a major disaster. The following restoration raised the apse and the decoration of the narthex (according to an inscription in 1332/1333) and the central part of the church. The paintings include the great synthesis of the Second Coming which expands on the domes, the northern apse and uppers of the west wall, and at a lower point they show standing saints, Christ and the Virgin Mary.
The artist who painted these paintings used dull colors, in which the coffee color dominates. A typical sample of these frescoes is the three Apostles depicted on a throne. The narthex was decorated with frescoes soon after its construction in the second half of the 12th century and redecorated in 1332/3 with strong Frankish influences. The representation of a large number of donors is also in the iconography of the narthex. Some later frescoes saved in the Virgin of Asinou date back in the 17th century.
The effect of the capital, Constantinople, is strong through architecture and aesthetic development of the monument. These effects were amplified by the decision of the emperor Alexios Komninos (1081-1118) to make Cyprus the largest military base of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea- due to the geopolitical conditions of the time. The fresco of the Virgin with Franks donors adorns the dome of the southern arch of the narthex, where the woman-donor wears a long black veil- that has to do with a subsequent period of interest. This particular type of clothing was introduced in Cyprus by Western European origin refugees from Syria after the fall of Accra in 1291.
Short dramatized video, which presents on a descriptive and communicative dimension the key elements that anyone should know about the monument (in an understandable form, suitably subtitled for both adults and children).
Watch video here.
abbot: the leader of the monks in a monastery.
Communion: the Christian rite involving the eating of bread and drinking of wine, reenacting the Last Supper.
foothill: the foot of the mountain.
Frankish: Western European, belonging to Catholic doctrine.
getter: the founder of the church, monastery or institution, which ensures the necessary means of maintenance.
Latinokratia (Latin Domination): the domination of the Latins, forces from Western Europe (Venetians, Genoese and others) in areas with Greek populations.
Magister: supreme military and political authority in byzantine time and roman period.
narthex: a specific space, usually Gallery, which occupies the entire western side of the Christian church where the catechumens stood in the early Christian times.
residential dull: that does not shine, has no glitter.
Tourkokratia (Ottoman occupation): the period of Greek history from the fall of Constantinople to the declaration of the revolution in 1821 ∙ general, the domination of Ottomans/ Turks in foreign lands.
- What kind of information from the text do the Western influences of the monument indicate?
- What is the specificity and the value of the church frescoes?
Indicative response: The frescoes of the church express the new trends of Komninon period painting and they are one of the most important sets of Byzantine art of the period.
- Antiquities Department of Cyprus http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/da/da.nsf/DMLunesco_gr/DMLunesco_gr?OpenDocument (03/11/2012).
- Archaeological sites and monuments of Cyprus in the list of world cultural heritage, Nicosia, Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO, http://whc.unesco.org/cyprus2009/
- Centre of the Greek Language, Dictionary of Standard Modern Greek, http://www.greek-language.gr/greekLang/modern_greek/tools/lexica/triantafyllides/index.html
- Dometios Monk, Journey to hagiographic churches of Cyprus, Nicosia, 2008.
- Weyl Carr & Nicolaïdès A. (eds), Asinou across Time. Studies in the Architecture and Murals of the Panagia Phorbiotissa, Cyprus, Harvard University Press, 2013.