Byzantine art and cyprus byzantinf art
Byzantine art and cyprus byzantinf art is mainly Church art and it was born after the recognition of Christianity as a State religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great and the transfer of the capital to Byzantium, now Constantinople, in 330, in the middle of the Greek world and the crossroads of trading, military and artistic routes.
The Greeks now became the main custodians of the new religion, its dogma and its means of expression under the new spiritual developments. Prior to this development, Church art was really Hellenistic art in style and iconography with little alteration. For when Christianity was born, the eastern Mediterranean world was under classical domination, as a result of the conquests and progressive policies of Alexander the Great and his successors. The Roman world was already Hellenized to a great degree. Seeking a means of expression in literature and art, the new religion could only find Hellenistic models and types which it adopted and adjusted to suit its purposes: the youthful Apollo and Orpheus and the pastoral scenes of Greek mythology were now transformed into the youthful Christ, the Good Shepherd of the Bible, and the Roman basilica into a church. This was the art of an unofficial religion. With the raising of Christianity to a State religion under the personal protection of the Emperors, the representatives of God on earth, things changed. A new means of expression was needed to satisfy the demands of the new religion of the Imperial Court and the masses of people; and Byzantium was in a position to do it. All the ancient arts and crafts were there. Elements from the East were also coming in. A transformation was needed. The Olympian Zeus was transformed into the historical Christ. The craft of the mosaicists was transferred from the floors to the walls, from the decorative carpets so to speak, to the illustration of a universal religion.
The fifth century was an experimental period. The existing prototypes of the past ages had to be transformed into symbols rather than images of Christ, the Virgin, the Apostles and the Saints. But the Hellenic mode of representation was anthropomorphic. The lance of Achilles, the arms of Diomedes, the sceptre of Agamemnon, as of other Greek heroes, were preserved and honoured. Imperial Christianity adopted these practices and the optical representation of anything to do with a religion was a deeply rooted human desire which Christianity could not escape. A dematerialization of the prototypes began to evolve to suit the new developments and by the fifth century Byzantine ‘art came into being. An amalgamation of divergent elements — Greek, Hellenistic, Imperial Roman and Eastern — gave the necessary means of expression to Christianity. The three-dimensional Greek models were transformed into two-dimensional abstract formulae of iconic and dematerialized quality impressing the beholders with their spiritual, hieratic power.
In architecture, the same forces were at work. The Greeks, long acquainted with the mysteries of oriental building, adopted its character and developed a spacious domed construction representing the universe, God and its people within one unified ensemble. Justinian’s St. Sophia, dedicated in 537, was the climax of religious architecture never surpassed in any land or age. The foundations of Byzantine art that were laid down during the Justinian era of the sixth century were to last for a thousand years.
From the outset, the final products of the evolution from the existing prototypes into Byzantine art were not uniform. Successive recourses to classical models and the varying power of approach by individual artists left their stamp in varying degrees on the new art. Classicizing and abstract linear trends evolved side by side, sometimes converging and meeting half-way in an effort to give expression to a religion away from idolatry, Constantinople always being the propagating centre.
By the time of Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century (610-641), a renewed popularity of the Greek style was breathing a new classicizing life into Byzantine art. The abstract, or, as occasionally called, the transcendental style reached its climax at about the same time, the votive mosaic paintings of St. Demetrius in the homonymous church in Salonica being excellent surviving examples: icons to come into contact with the worshippers, an evolution pregnant with self-defeat, quite the contrary of what it set out to achieve.
The crisis came in the next century and precisely in 726, when the Iconoclastic controversy broke out, a politico-religious reformation dispute concerning the painting of images in the churches which lasted until 843, resulting in a temporary halt of further development, great destruction of earlier works of art, banishment and emigration of the supporters and above all in a great discussion which influenced the iconographic developments when it was ended. The defenders of the images contended that these stood in a transcendental relationship to the persons they depicted, a thesis reminiscent of Plato’s defence of the statues over fourteen hundred years earlier, contending that “though lifeless we believe that our reverence is agreeable to the living gods, and brings us favours of them”.
This is a good junction from which to retrace our steps and see what was happening in Cyprus during this early period. Under the circumstances, Hellenistic Cyprus was fully prepared to receive the new developments. Of the early Christian monuments of the island nothing survives today in its original form. But from the remnants which have been incorporat ed in later Byzantine reconstructions — Panagia Kanakaria, Panagia Angeloktistos etc. — and through the excavations carried out at Salamis—Constantia (fourth century), Kato Paphos (Nea Paphos, fourth century), Peyia near Paphos (sixth century), Soloi, Yialousa and elsewhere, we can deduce that the earliest churches of Cyprus were timber-roofed, also called “Hellenistic” basilicas. The Eastern type of the multi-domed basilica of the Justinianic era was probably also introduced into the island at an early date, as could be implied from the present churches of St. Barnabas near Salamis and St. Lazarus in Larnaca, with three domes in a line over the nave (St. Barnabas has lost the east one), though these churches have been much altered through successive destructions and reconstructions in later centuries (Soteriou). Another opinion suggests that these churches are a later expedient for re-roofing earlier wood-roofed basilicas, after their destruction by the first Arab invasions of the seventh century, when some of them were also turned into vaulted basilicas, as is now accepted for those of Aphendrika in the Karpasia Peninsula. The unique, for their type, five-domed basilicas of Yeroskipos and Peristerona emanate from these developments. The early Byzantine wall-paintings now discovered in the church of Yeroskipos corroborate their position in this period of the Arab invasions.
The variety of early floor and mural decorations discovered in various secular buildings attest the existence of a continuous tradition in this sphere of art before it was transformed into Church art. Among the recently discovered mosaic floors of the second-third century a.d., at Kato Paphos, with scenes from the classical mythology in juxtaposed styles, there is a vivid representation of Icarius — the man to whom Dionysus taught the art of wine making — which bears striking stylistic and iconographic similarities to later representations of St. Paul (fig. 1).
In a palace excavated in the same city, a unique mosaic composition of Theseus fighting the Minotaur in the circular centre of the Labyrinth has been discovered; Theseus is encouraged by Ariadne and the personification of Crete, depicted on either side of the hero’s head, while by his feet reclines the personification of the Labyrinth; the Minotaur is badly damaged; a spiral meander (guilloche), representing Ariadne’s thread, leads into this central scene from the outer geometric representation of the Labyrinth. The Mosaic was originally set in the second half of the third century a.d., but the head of Theseus (fig. 2), and the personification of Crete were reset towards the end of the fourth century a.d. While the style of the original figures of Ariadne and the personification of the Labyrinth (fig. 3), betray their classical and Hellenistic derivation, the restored figures of Theseus and Crete betray a proto-Byzantine iconic development as we see it applied to figural representations in the rotunda church of St. George at Thessaloniki (Staszewski); in other words, we have here a common style serving the secular and religious art of the period. In the figure of the personification of the Labyrinth, we see a prototype for the later personifications of Hades in the Byzantine scenes of the Anastasis. The motif of the spiral meander is also used in Byzantine decorations, as in the church of St. Paraskevi at Yeroskipos, where we find it encircling the early Byzantine painted Cross, in the east dome of the church. A fifth-century a.d. mosaic representation of the Birth of Achilles, in the same palace, provides us with iconographic and stylistic elements for the later Byzantine representations of the Birth of Christ and especially of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (fig. 4).
In a section of the Gymnasium at Salamis, some mural paintings and apse mosaics of the early fourth century, the latter comprising Artemis and Apollo kneeling on a rock, and the head of a youth within a garland border, provide us with wall prototypes for this art. In another section of the same Gymnasium, an early wall mosaic of the personification of the river Eurotas provides us with the kind of prototype imitated by the Byzantines for the river Jordan in the scenes of the Baptism of Christ.
Moving to the ancient city of Curium, we find a floor mosaic of the second century a.d., portraying Achilles at the court of Lycomedes. Among the fourth-fifth-century a.d. floor mosaics discovered in the bath-house in another part of the same city, there is a fine personification of Ktisis (Creation), alluding to the erection of these establishments, executed in the Hellenistic manner, recalling similar representations discovered at Antioch, and furnishing us with yet another prototype for Byzantine art.
Documentary evidence for this transitional period is provided by several inscriptions discovered in the same city. A third-century inscription from the sanctuary of Apollo at Curium and now in the Episkopi Museum, mentioning that “Claudianus, son of Thyllicus, on being cured of his sickness, dedicated a statuette to Apollo Hylates in fulfilment of his vow” (fig. 5), provides us with religious customs later adopted by the Christians for their votive paintings.
Returning to the fourth-fifth-century bath-house already mentioned, we find two dedicatory floor inscriptions in verse, one furnishing us with a prototype for Byzantine dedicatory inscriptions in the later Byzantine centuries, and the other reflecting in a remarkable way the spirit of this transitional period. From the first one we learn that the donor Eustolius, although he lived abroad — and possibly had risen to Imperial service — when he saw the miseries of Curium, did not forget the city of his birth.
We find a mosaic floor of excellent worksmanship in a basilica of the sixth century excavated near Peyia. This is composed of highly decorative interlaced patterns with lotus borders and a variety of birds, fish and other animals such as stags and lions.
For examples of the mural decoration of these early Byzantine churches we have to turn elsewhere in the island. The two mosaic pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child attended by the Archangels, in the apses of the churches of Panagia Kanakaria and Panagia Angeloktistos, now that they are accepted as contemporary creations of the time of Justinian the Great, provide us with excellent examples of the two poles of Byzantine art, at the outset of its evolution. The enthroned Virgin Mary with Christ in her lap, in the Kanakaria church, depicted en face and isolated by a mandorla from the also rigid attending Archangels, reflect imperial and oriental influences, resulting in majestic and iconic compositions, imparting respect and claiming devotion. The standing Virgin Mary with Christ in her left arm, in the Angeloktistos church, depicted in naturalistic postures along with the ministering Archangels shown in movement, on the other hand, retain more of the Hellenic qualities of the prototypes, and reflect the more humanistic approach to the new art. These opposing styles and iconographic tendencies were to continue throughout the long history of Byzantine art, sometimes juxtaposed and sometimes converging to meet half-way.
The three Cypriote mosaics — including the fragmentary one of Panagia Kyra — further attest the cultural connections of Cyprus with the capital during this period, along with its new political orientations. The fact that two of them have been attributed to many centuries between the fifth and the twelfth by great Byzantinologists, attests the power of Byzantine art, an art which was meant to be universal, serving a universal religion not bound by time or space. As few pre-iconoclast figure mosaics survive in Constantinople itself, these examples greatly contribute towards our knowledge concerning the character of the monumental art of the capital at this period, and thus indirectly confirm the Constantinopolitan origin of the Ravenna mosaics to which they are related. Furthermore, they suggest that the destructions of the Iconoclasts were not strictly enforced in the island, perhaps owing to the contemporary Arab invasions.
Another important relic of this early Byzantine period are the mural paintings of the fifth-sixth century, in a holy well at Salamis-Constantia, again illustrating the transition from the old era into the new: a chapel watf huilt above a disused water cistern; this was decorated with the head of the historical type of Christ placed above a nilotic composition of symbolic character, depicting fish and ducks swimming in a pool of water interspersed with water plants; inscriptions were added from the Scriptures and a Christian agiasma was ready for use. The early connections of Cyprus with the Holy Land and the Near East are here indicated.
In the sphere of metal work, Cyprus yielded two most important treasures of gold and silver objects discovered at Lambousa (site of ancient Lapithos), by local quarry men.
(2) A silver basin bearing a medallion of St. Sergius dated between the years 641-651, during the reign of Emperor Constans II. (3) A silver paten bearing a nielloed cross, of the time of Tiberius II (578-582). (4) Twenty-four spoons of the sixth-seventh century, in shape following the Greco-Roman tradition, but eleven of them bearing in their bowls wild animals in relief, closely connected with those of the hunting scenes in the mosaic pavements of New Paphos, of the second-third century a.d.. both reflecting earlier Hellenistic models.
The second and more important of the two treasures was discovered in two lots, on the tenth and the twelfth of February 1902, near the acropolis of the city, and, after an adventure touching the boundaries of a detective story, a small part of it was confiscated for the Nicosia Museum, while the rest was smuggled out of the island and eventually found its place in the Metropolitan Museum of New York and other American Museums. A set of nine silver plates of various sizes, bearing scenes from the life of David (Samuel I, ff.), stand out as a unique ensemble of early Byzantine metal workmanship, in style and iconography, securely dated by their imperial control stamps to the time of Heraclius, and more precisely between the years 627-630 (fig. 8). Three of them are in the Nicosia Museum and the rest in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The scenes represented in these dishes are variously interpreted: — (1) David Summoned to Samuel (or David Comes to Saul to play the harp — Nicosia Museum). (2) The Anointing of David. (3) David Introduced to Saul (or Summoned to Saul, before the fight with Goliath). (4) David Slaying the Lion. (5) David Slaying the Bear (Nicosia Museum). (6) David Trying on the Armour of Saul (or Solemn Compact of Friendship between David and Jonathan). (7) The Fight between David and Goliath. (8) The Marriage of David and Michal (Nicosia Museum); (9) David and the Soldier (or David Challenged by Goliath).
The plate depicting the fight between David and Goliath, in three scenes, is the largest and most beautiful of them all (fig. 9). The top scene shows the two men addressing one another in dispute, with a personification of the valley, in Hellenistic manner, between them. The middle scene shows the two men in actual fight. Goliath, in full armour, attacks David from the right with a spear. David neutralizes the spearing of Goliath with his cloak wrapped round his left arm; his right hand is about to sling the miraculous stone at the giant Philistine. Behind David, two armed soldiers stand in readiness. Behind Goliath, two armed soldiers are shown in retreat. The attitudes of the four soldiers prepare us for the result of the fight. In the bottom scene, Goliath is on the ground in a dramatic fall. David has detached Goliath’s sword and is about to slay him.
The scenes depicted in these dishes were executed in repousse, and their outside was covered with a second sheet of silver to hide the hammered parts. The details were chased from the inside. The classicizing style of the compositions give these dishes a most important place in the so-called “aristocratic” branch of Byzantine art of the pre-iconoclastic period.
Although the scenes depicted in this unique series of early Byzantine silver plates are religious, they are not Church vessels. This narrows the gap of the dating of the plates to between that year and 630. Wander’s ingenious arrangement of the plates in the form of the monogram of Christ, with the largest of them bearing the combat of David and Goliath placed in the centre, provides us with a further symbolic interpretation also suggesting that they belonged to the Emperor himself. It now remains to establish how the plates found their way to Lapithos- Lambousa in Cyprus. Lapithos was then a flourishing city with highly developed gold and silver works, as well as silk and pottery industries. Its ancient shipyards could probably still provide facilities for ship repairs. It is not illogical to suppose that the Emperor used the island and therefore also Lapithos, as an intermediate stage for his campaigns against the Persians. It is known that the Emperor established a mint in the island and struck copper folles of forty nummia, 624/5-627/8, for financing his campaigns.
The rest of the silver objects of the treasure are: — (10) A plate with a cruciform monogram, 602-5 (Nicosia Museum). (11) A plate with a cross, 613-630 (Nicosia Museum). (12) A plate with a cruciform monogram, 610-613. (13) A similar plate (Dumbarton Oaks, Washington). (14) A similar plate but larger (the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore).
The gold objects of the treasure are of equal importance: — (15) A unique medallion of twelve solidi turned into an encolpium (pendant) by its owner (Dumbarton Oaks). On its obverse it bears the Virgin Mary and Child enthroned, attended by the Archangels, and an abbreviated Birth of Christ with the Adoration of the Magi. On its reverse it bears the Baptism of Christ with three personifications of the river Jordan and the Sea. It is now generally accepted that it was issued by the Emperor Maurice Tiberius on the occasion of the baptism of his son Theodosius, on Epiphany day, January 584. The issue must have been restricted to a small number, intended for distribution to personages of ihe Court and to high officials throughout the Empire. (16) A gold marriage belt, composed of medallions and solidi of rare issues and of various Emperors. It was a Byzantine custom, at least among the upper classes, for the bridegroom to give a gold belt to the bride. (17) A gold necklace with a cross and pendants in the shape of small pots. (18) A gold necklace with a cross and other ornaments. (19) A small necklace with beads and pearls. (20) A pair of gold bracelets. (21) A pair of gold earrings with sapphires. (22) Three pairs of earrings with pearls (Nicosia). The style and technique of the last six ornaments, reflect those of earlier prototypes of the Hellenistic and Roman times, and were common in the Near East during the sixth-seventh centuries. It is most probable that these Cyprus examples were manufactured in Lapithos-Lambousa itself.
The above two treasures reflect the riches and prosperity of Cyprus in the sixth and seventh centuries, and its close connexions with Constantinople during that period, as the David dishes strongly indicate.
The recent discovery of an un-iconic cupola decoration of the ninth century in the church of St. Paraskevi at Yeroskipos, reflects yet another development in the long history of evolution of the Byzantine civilization, and closes up the early Byzantine period.
With the triumph of the icons in the ninth century (843), Byzantine art began to revive again and the centuries that followed were to be the golden age of the Byzantine civilization. Under the Macedonian and Comnenian dynasties, Constantinople became the great creative centre where all the divergent elements that gathered there from the European and Asiatic provinces of the vast Empire, were assimilated with the Greek and transformed into that fine art which was destined to influence all the world. The revival of Platonic and classical studies in the ninth century, through the learned Patriarch of Constantinople Photius (820-891), and again in the eleventh century, through the philosopher Michael Psellos (1018-1078), roused the dormant trend for the hellenization of Byzantine art. Thus, this neo-classical movement (a reaction to the iconoclastic controversy), was to have far- reaching, if contradictory, results. Culminating in the great Schism, the complete rupture between Rome and Constantinople, it breathed naturalism and humanism into Byzantine art, and prepared the way for the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century.
It was in Constantinople that the perfect cross-in-square domed church was finally developed from Eastern prototypes in the early period of the Macedonian dynasty, the destroyed “New church of the Palace” erected by Basil I, accepted as the prototype. This type became one of the main types of centralized Church architecture during the later centuries. The loose schemes of decoration of the early Byzantine churches now evolved into a unified whole, guided by the stabilized dogma that was expounded by the seven Oecumenical Councils of the Church (at which the Cypriote prelates took an active part), and the theological discussions of the iconoclastic period. The dome of the centralized churches, with the majestic Christ Pantocrator surrounded by His angels and prophets, represented heaven. The walls below, with their compositions from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints, represented the earth. The prelates, the deacons and the hymn writers took their appropriate places in the sanctuary. Nothing was painted in any part of the church without meaning. From then onwards, architecture and decoration went hand in hand. But the two trends in style and iconography continued to co-exist as set pieces of music, variously interpreted by the multitude of artists of the Byzantine Empire and wherever its influence could reach.
There are no schools of painting in Byzantine art as we know them in the West. Broadly speaking, certain scholars divided Byzantine art into two schools: the so-called “neo-classical” or “court” or “aristocratic” school, wherein the Greek elements stand out, and the “monastic” or “hieratic” or “popular” school, wherein the abstract linear qualities take over. In between, a harmonious and balanced union of classical reality and Christian spirituality often produced a style more in keeping with the requirements of the religion it set out to serve. Furthermore it has been observed that the classicizing style served the court circles and the rest of the aristocracy in the capital or in the districts, while the monastic or popular style served the populace, whether in the big cities or in the villages of the vast Empire.
Other scholars, on the other hand, reject the above differentiations as artificial. Certainly they should not be taken as absolute. As there is less than one per cent of the whole output of Byzantine art surviving today, it is very difficult to arrive at absolute conclusions. But artificial though these terms may be, they are necessary for communication among the art historians, and between them and the wider public.
All scholars agree on the division of Byzantine art into periods defined by the chronological boundaries of the successive Byzantine dynasties of the post-iconoclastic period: the Macedonians (867-1056), the Comneni (1081- 1185) and the Palaeologi (1261-1453). The art of each of these periods is characterized by certain stylistic and iconographic tendencies, with repeated recourses to classical models; but the foundations always remained the same.
The universal character of Byzantine art is more apparent during the mid- Byzantine period. The twelfth-century mural painting of St. Paul, in St. Anselm’s chapel in Canterbury Cathedral, is an example illustrating the wide orbit of influence of Byzantine art during this period (fig. 62). It is closely reminiscent of St. Paul at the death-bed of the Mother of God in the church of Panagia Phorbiotissa at Asinou.
Mosaic work, mural painting, icon painting, manuscript illumination, ivory sculpture and metal work, the main mediums through which the Byzantines expressed their artistic talents, had reached the peak of their evolution during this mid-Byzantine period, with the Church as the majn customer. Rival mediums had their periods of supremacy over each other, reflecting the fluctuations of the Byzantine Empire. While, for example, mosaic work reflected the prosperity of the times and its sponsors, mural painting was the medium of the poorer communities and most of the monastic establishments. The portable works of art and the itinerant painters helped to propagate the civilization throughout the vast territories of the Empire and beyond it into far-away lands.
Returning to Cyprus, we find that its re-incorporation into the Empire in the year 965, coincided with the great revival of Byzantine art of this mid- Byzantine period. The island began to revive again from the destructions of the Arab invasions of the past three centuries, and the surviving works of art of the following two centuries show that Cyprus kept contact with the new developments in the capital and elsewhere, and fully shared the golden age of Byzantine art. The squinch type of a simple form in which the dome is carried on eight pillars; a single-aisled vaulted basilica with arched recesses in the side walls, and a three-aisled vaulted basilica with a dome over the centre were also used. Some of the earlier timber-roofed basilicas, which were ruined during the Arab invasions, were now remodelled on the new lines: Acheiropietos at Lambousa (ancient Lapithos), Angeloktistos at Kiti. Earlier vaulted basilicas were also revived as cruciform domed buildings when the occasion arose: St. Anthony, Kellia.
They were usually built with stones and in the plains and coastal areas their roofs were coated with lime mortar, a feature characteristic of the Greek islands. Some vaulted churches were supplied with this protection at the outset: Panagia Phorbiotissa, Panagia Amasgou. In the twelfth century extensive use of brick was made in the general construction of some churches, through the influence of Constantinople: St. Chrysostom’s Monastery, Koutsovendis.
The political and cultural orientation of Cyprus towards the capital during this time is further attested by the erection of several monasteries endowed with Royal funds: Kykkos, Machaeras and others. Unfortunately these Royal foundations lost their original churches with their complete series of wall- paintings, through successive fires; historical evidence suggests that they were timber-roofed. But as we shall see in the description of the surviving churches, master painters from the capital visited the island and taught their art which was to last for a long time. As very little can be seen today in Constantinople itself, these monuments acquire a special place in the study of Byzantine art.
The recently discovered fragments of tenth-century wall-paintings in the church of St. Paraskevi at Yeroskipos and of the early eleventh century in the church of St. Anthony at Kellia (Larnaca district), along with the well-known series of the same period in the church of St. Nicholas of the Roof near Kakopetria, attest that the Cypriotes were quick to profit from their final liberation from the Arab invasions.
The early Comnenian period is better represented with several series and remains of paintings of the early twelfth century: Asinou, Trikomo, Kakopetria (St. Nicholas of the Roof, second series), Kaliana, Monagri (early remains), Koutsovendis; the Entombment of Christ in the cemetery chapel of Panagia Aphendrika, belonging to the near by Monastery of St. Chrysostom, provides us with the emotional qualities of Nerezi half a century earlier, as also does the Dormition of the Mother of God in the church of Asinou.
Moving towards the end of the Comnenian period we have the damaged series of paintings in the church of the Holy Apostles at Perachorio of ca. 1160-1180. In the cave hermitage of St. Neophytus near Paphos, we are confronted with several styles between the two “poles” of Byzantine art. Two dated inscriptions and documentary evidence from the writings of St. Neophytus himself, give us a firm ground to work from: 1183, cell and sanctuary; 1196, nave. Whatever the answers to questions concerning the repainting of the Crucifixion above the door of the cell, or to any discrepancies in the style of both groups, the fact remains that here we have a little museum of Byzantine art of the last quarter of the twelfth century. For the earlier group, Neophytus chose a painter (or painters) working in the most polished style, characterized by a Hellenistic plasticity in the modelling of the pale faces, with little linear definition. There is subtlety and calmness in the folds of the garments of the elongated ascetics and the officiating prelates as befits their rank, but the sculptural mannerisms and undulations, as seen in the frescoes of Panagia tou Arakou (1192), are already here in the himations of Christ and Adam in the A nastasis, as well as in the garments of the Ascension above the altar. From this, it is evident that this classicizing style of the capital was not alien to the taste of the monastics. The appearance of a painter’s signature at such an early date is a welcome innovation. His unusual surname, Apseudes (Truthful), perhaps gives us the clue why he was chosen by the earnest recluse. For the later group of frescoes, however, Neophytus turned to a master working in the other extreme, characterized by an “ascetic” quality in the modelling of the faces and the bodies, in a severe and deeply linear manner, accentuated by white highlights. And yet, in the Crucifixion, this extreme severity has been relaxed, with recourse to a more popular, softer style. In the figure of the enthroned Christ, on the right of the iconostasis, we witness a further relaxation towards the more sophisticated style of the capital. This juxtaposition of styles — which constantly appears in all the Byzantine world in all its periods — poses the questions: could a Byzantine master revert at will from one style to another to suit the subjects depicted and the desires of his patrons? Are these discrepancies the results of personal interpretations of several painters working together from different models, or without them?
The classicizing style of the early series of paintings in the cave hermitage of St. Neophytus reaches its climax in the excellently preserved series of wall- paintings in the church of Panagia Arakiotissa near Lagoudera, of 1192.
The conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 and its merciless destruction and looting, followed by the breaking up of the Empire into little states, was a lamentable calamity. In consequence and as a consolation, we talk about the opening up of the gates of Western Europe to the influence of a living art. On the other hand, the dispersal of the artists of the capital into Serbia, Bulgaria and elsewhere, kept the flame burning (Mileseva, Boiana, Pec, Sopocani), until the reconquest of Constantinople by the Byzantines in 1261, and the reunion of what remained of the Empire (1261-1453). With the revival of the Empire, a revival of the arts was also initiated, and Byzantine art reached new glories in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. With a pictorial language inspired by a renewed direct approach to classical models and exploiting the achievements of the past centuries, Byzantine art was to reach new heights of interpretation of the Christian religion, sometimes dramatic (the painters Manuel Panselinos, Thessaloniki, Eutychios and Michael Astrapas, Ochrid), sometimes humanistic, idealistic and ethereal (St. Saviour in Chora, Holy Apostles, Thessaloniki, Mystras, etc.), but always within measure and sober boundaries. The Byzantines never used living models for their portraits; they created them. In the sphere of iconography and subject matter, there was a stress now on the childhood of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the Passion, the miracles and the parables of Christ. More than ever before, the walls of the churches were now turned into open illustrated books. The Byzantine masters carried once more the message of their art beyond the borders of the reduced Empire. Thus, while the Gothic buildings introduced by the Latins in the main towns influenced the architecture of the later Greek churches, the Byzantine traditions in church painting lived on throughout the Latin period, in the villages and monasteries of the island. Superficial Western infiltrations in the sphere of secondary iconographic details there are, but in the main their style remained conservative Byzantine, drawing from the monumental art of the previous centuries. This is evident in the series of frescoes of the first half of the thirteenth century in the church of St. Heracleidius at St. John Lampadistis monastery, and in the church of Panagia tou Moutoulla, dated 1280.
The fourteenth century is represented by several series applied as a redecoration to several earlier churches. Those in the churches of St. Demetrianus at
Dali dated 1317, and those in the narthex of the church of Asinou dated 1333, are the only dated examples in this century, giving us a firm ground to work from. Those in the nave of the church of Asinou and in the church of the Holy Cross at Pelendri are dated by circumstantial evidence to the third quarter of the century, and those of the second series in the church of St. Heracleidius of the Monastery of St. John Lampadistis at Kalopanayiotis to ca 1400. Although the fourteenth-century Constantinopolitan style reached Cyprus through the portable icons, none of the above series of wall-paintings follows the polished style of the period, excepting a number of paintings in the bema of the church of the Holy Cross at Pelendri, which were probably influenced by the icons. The surviving paintings in the church of St. Euphemianus at Lysi are of a better quality, and some remains of good quality Palaeologue style have been recorded in other churches (Papageorgiou), but on the whole the surviving paintings of the fourteenth century in Cyprus lack the new air of renovation of the period. The island was under a foreign rule and its contact with Constantinople was at second hand; and in the sphere of painting the conquerors had little to offer but much to borrow. In the Royal chapel at Pyrga, erected in 1421, we have the only surviving extensive remains of wall-paintings in a Latin church. Their hybrid quality combines the Byzantine traditions with a Western palate.
With the coming of the daughter of the Despot of Morea, Helena Palaeologina, to Cyprus in 1442, to become the Queen of John II, some artists must have followed in her trail. The paintings in the “Palaea Enkleistra” near Kouklia, reflecting the art of Mystras, should be seen as a product of this revival.
It is regrettable that the monastery of St. George of Mangana, revived by her in Nicosia in 1453 to house the monk refugees from Constantinople, was pulled down by the Venetians in 1567, when the walls of the town were reduced, in view of the impending invasion by the Turks. It is at this time (1453), that we have definite indications that artists from Constantinople were again at work in the island, judging by the dedicatory inscription in the narthex of the monastic church of Sts. Heracleidius-John Lampadistis at Kalopanayiotis; this time the artists must have been refugees. But the art there is mediocre.
In the meantime, weather conditions, poverty and practical necessities enforced a simple type of church architecture in the central parts of the Troodos range of mountains, from the thirteenth century onwards. In this type of church, four walls support a steep-pitched wooden roof covered with flat hooked tiles. Sometimes an enclosure on all sides for practical uses results in a church within a church (Holy Cross of Agiasmati). In other cases the enclosure is only on one, two or three sides, in most cases added later. We also have specimens in which these churches are divided into a nave and two aisles by wooden or stone-built arcades (of the Dormition at Kourdali, the Pantanassa at Palaeochorio, and St. John Prodromos at Askas), resulting in miniature basilicas covered with one continuous, steeply-pitched wooden roof with flat tiles. It was believed that this type of church was an influence from Western Europe during the Latin occupation of the island.
Recent discoveries and re-examination of existing material suggest that this type of wood-roofing must have been indigenous to these mountains, dictated by local and practical conditions before the Latin occupation, although the earliest surviving example is the church of Panagia tou Moutoulla, dated 1280. But earlier vaulted churches contemporarily covered with a second protective roofing of this type, corroborate its earlier indigenous existence in these mountains (Asinou, Amasgou).
This type of simple church became very popular for small communities, monastic establishments, cemetery chapels and even family chapels of Western nobles, in this mountainous area; they continued to be erected right down to the eighteenth century. The Byzantine scheme of decoration was easily adapted to these churches, the upper parts of the walls usually reserved for the scenes and the lower parts for the individual Saints.
The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 marked the beginning of the end of a thousand-year-old civilization which left behind it a great legacy. Byzantine art lived on in the various provinces of the dissolved Empire — Mount Athos, Crete, Cyprus, and parts of Eastern Europe — but it was the last gleam of Byzantine culture; deprived of the guiding light of the Metropolis, it soon died out in the fulness of time, but not before it produced an El Greco.
The influx of refugees into Latin-held Cyprus from the mainland after the fall of Constantinople, brought home to the Cypriotes the dangers of the impending storm. In the face of extreme danger, the people turned to their religion; many churches were built and decorated and many portable icons were painted. The second half of the fifteenth century is represented by the conservative series of paintings in the church of the Archangel Michael at Pedoulas, signed by a local artist from the valley of Marathasa and dated 1474. The great number of complete series of paintings surviving from the end of the fifteenth and the first quarter of the sixteenth centuries, suggest that a great revival of church painting took place in the island during this time. This was the early period of the Venetian occupation of the island. Venice was then the great sea-power of the Eastern Mediterranean and the centre of cultural developments. For the first time Italian Renaissance influence began to affect the local painters on a great scale.
The Palaeologue styles of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are now belatedly more apparent in the paintings of the island, imbued with Italian influences in varying degrees. In this context, several parallel lines of development evolved in the last decade of the fifteenth and the first quarter of the sixteenth centuries.
The two cycles of paintings in the churches of the Holy Cross of Agiasmati and of St. Mamas at Louvaras, signed by the well-educated artist Philip Goul and dated 1494 and 1495 respectively, supply us with revealing conclusions. The iconography and style of the two series of paintings are differentiated enough, so that it would have been difficult to attribute them to the same artist let alone to the same date, had they not been signed. Illuminated manuscripts, transfers or sketch books with material emanating from different sources must have been used, affecting even the style of the two final products. The pronounced Western architectural backgrounds to the compositions, especially in the church of Agiasmati, look grafted and unassimilated, while other iconographic Western elements are more assimilated. A few Western stylistic affinities also stand out, as for example in the figure of St. John Kalyvitis (fig. 120). The rare cycle of miniature paintings of the legend of the Discovery of the Holy Cross in the church of Agiasmati is also imbued with secondary iconographic elements of a Crusader character, but on the whole the art of Philip Goul clings to the Byzantine traditions.
The late fifteenth-century paintings of St. Paraskevi at Yeroskipos cling more to the prototypes of the Palaeologue period, with a few Western iconographic infiltrations adapted and assimilated into the Byzantine blood stream, excepting the Crucifixion, where the Western iconography takes over and stands out. In the contemporary second series of paintings in the church of Christ Antiphonitis near Kalogrea, on the other hand, only the multistoreyed Renaissance architectural background, grafted to the scene of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, betrays the late date of the paintings.
By ca. 1500, an Italo-Byzantine school of painters was active in the island, judging by the cycle of paintings in the “Latin Chapel” of the monastery of St. John Lampadistis, those in the church of Panagia Podithou near Galata, dated 1502, and those in the church of Panagia Katholiki at Pelendri, not far removed in date. These paintings combine classical Byzantine and Italian Renaissance elements, assimilated in a harmonious form. Only the Crucifixion at Podithou became almost completely Westernized. Completely Westernized also is the Crucifixion in the church of the Dormition at Kourdali, among a series of paintings of the early sixteenth century, also betraying strong Italian influence, but rather unassimilated this time.
The two complete cycles of paintings by the local painter Symeon Axenti in the churches of St. Sozomenus and of the Archangel-Theotokos at Galata, dated 1513 and 1514 respectively, and the outstanding paintings of the church of the Saviour at Palaeochorio, not far removed in date, follow a more conservative development, announcing the so-called Cretan school of the sixteenth century, placing Cyprus in the vanguard of post-Byzantine developments. There is an interrelation of iconographic models between these paintings and those painted by Philip Goul at the close of the preceding century.
The same stylistic tendencies are also apparent in the paintings of the Katholikon of the monastery of St. Neophytus, betraying affinities with the art of Mystras of the preceding centuries.
Another group of paintings of this period display extremely rustic qualities, as in the churches of St. Maura near Kilani, of the late fifteenth century, St. George Perachoritis near Kakopetria, of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, conservative in style and iconography, but touching the boundaries of 1 folk art; those in the sixteenth-century chapel of the Archangel Michael at Vizakia enter the sphere of an extremely naive quality, imbued with grafted Venetian iconographic elements.
The middle of the sixteenth century is represented by the few paintings of a good quality — for this late period — in the church of Panagia Amasgou, near Monagri, dated 1564.
The gathering storm broke out in 1570 and the island fell to the Turks. Wall-painting gradually came to an end, and the illustration of the Orthodox faith shifted completely to the portable icons. Isolated examples like the complete series of paintings of the eighteenth century in the church of St. John of the old Archbishopric in Nicosia, or partial decorations of churches like that of St. George of Arpera, near Tersephanou, only help to stress the decline of Byzantine art. This also applies to portable icons.
On the other hand, goldsmiths’ work continued to flourish on good standards, encouraged by the demand for holy vessels and repousse dressings of earlier portable icons, especially of the Virgin Mary. An excellent example is the silver gilt cover of the famous icon of the Virgin Mary of Kykkos monastery, dated 1576 and signed by the goldsmith Toumazos of Nicosia (fig. 10). The narrow band with waist-length figures of Apostles and prelates framed by ogee arches, attached along the bottom of the icon-cover, is of an earlier date and it carries us back to the end of the fifteenth century; the figures represented are Matthew, Philip, Simon (fig. 11), Basil, Gregory, Chrysostom, Peter, Paul, Bartholomew, Andrew, Thomas and James. The superimposed processional cross with miniature Passion scenes on both sides, on the other hand, carries us forward to the end of the eighteenth century.
In conclusion, we might observe that this easternmost of the Greek islands, with its receptive climate of Christian Hellenism and its strategic position on the route to the Eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire, adopted and cultivated the metropolitan canons in religious art, in parallel to its active participation in the political, military and religious upheavals of this long and stormy period.