The Holy Church of Panagia Faneromeni

The Holy Church of Panagia Faneromeni, Nicosia, Cyprus

Nestled in the heart of the old town within Nicosia, Cyprus, this sanctuary is a beautiful place of worship. Rich in history including miraculous occurrences of legend, the church is open to visitors, as well as worshippers. The current structure visible today was built in 1872, and the Faneromeni Church is the largest Orthodox Church in the old part of Nicosia (within the Venetian walls). But the history of the site, even as a religious site, dates back many centuries prior. For example, this site was home to an orthodox nunnery and silk-weaving nuns, back in medieval times. Faneromeni Church is “ancient, very ancient” according to Archimandrite Kyprianos (18th Century).

The church is dedicated to Holy Mary (Panagia) and has a certain aura about it. The church does actually feel very ancient when you walk through the doors, but not in an obvious way. At first glance, the church almost looks bare because the walls closest to the door, away from the altar, are actually a simple plain white. The interior does not necessarily look ornate by modern standards, but on closer inspection of the icons near the altar, and the inner decoration, you start to realise the historical context of the church. The internal condition is well maintained and continuous efforts are made to maintain the quality of the iconostasis. The icons in the church range from the 16th to the 20th Century. The impressive chandelier in the centre of the church is pre-19th Century. It is a beautiful church.

The church is situated in Faneromeni Square, which used to be the central square of Cyprus’ capital city. The square lost its status in 1974 when “Eleftheria Square” (meaning “Freedom Square”) took over after the 1974 war between Cyprus and Turkey. Other notable buildings located alongside the church at Faneromeni Square include, Faneromeni School (originally a girls’ school), Faneromeni Library and the Marble Mausoleum. I suppose the history of the site suggests a degree of importance to women, given that the church is dedicated to the Holy Mary (Panagia Faneromeni), the medieval orthodox nunnery who weaved silk (entrepreneurial) and the girls’ school promoting the education and independence of girls.

Ironically, and in huge juxtaposition to the original purpose of the site, plus the function of the church as a sanctuary during war, and as a place of holy worship; the square is now a meeting point for Cypriot anarchists. It is shocking to see the graffiti on the outer perimeter walls of the church. The small cobbled streets around the church have become a cultural meeting point for artists and musicians, but also libertarians, anti-fascists and anti-authoritarians. Ironically, defacing the church grounds to get their message across, is only a repeat of what the church had to protect itself all those times, during the Ottoman and Turkish Invasions.

…. Swings and roundabouts?


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