A Bit of Archeology – Paphos Cyprus

Way back in April, I wrote about how our Cypriot holiday resort of Paphos had in 1980 been declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations because it had so many important historic remains.

One of the largest sites is close to the harbour and comprises of the ruins of a 13th century Lusignan castle Saranta Kolones (Forty Columns) built on top of the remains of a Byzantine castle, the excavated remains of some late Greco-Roman houses, a Greek Odeon or theatre and part of the old city walls.

Remains of Lusignan Castle destroyed in an earthquake in 1222

The French Crusader King of Jerusalem, Guy Lusignan bought Cyprus in 1192 from our own King Richard the Lionheart, he’d conquered it from the Arabs on the way to the Holy Land, but didn’t really want it. Cyprus remained in the Lusignan’s hands until 1489 when the Venetians took control of the island.

The Greco-Roman villas of Dionysos, Orpheus, Aion and Theseus have some really well preserved mosaic floors depicting stories from Greek mythology and are really quite stunning as you can see from these photos.

Mosaic Villa of Dionysis

Peacock mosaic

One of the nice things about visiting this site during April was the profusion of wild flowers.

wild flowers

While a more recent addition is the lighthouse which dates from the British occupation.

Paphos Lighthouse

Admission to the site was €1.70 for adults and free for under 12s. You can easily spend the whole afternoon there like we did, so it’s a good idea to take a bottle of water as there are no refreshments on sale. There is thankfully a toilet though.

Close by is Agia Kyriaki.

Basilca with the church of Aghia Kyriaki

This is a 16th century church built over the ruins of an 11th century church, that was in turn built over the 4th century Panagia Chrysopolitissa, a much larger Byzantine basilica destroyed in Arab raiders in the 7th century. In the church grounds the ruins of the Byzantine basilica have some very fine mosaic floors and we were lucky enough to photograph them after a rain shower, bringing out their colours quite beautifully.

Mosaic Floor from the Basilica

Also in the grounds is the alleged pillar that the Roman governor, Sergius Paulus had St Paul whipped against before his own conversion to Christianity.

St Paul's Whipping Pillar

Although the Church of Agia Kyriaki is a Greek Orthodox Church in 1987 the Bishop Metropolitan agreed to its use by the local Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Maronite and Finnish  congregations.

Icon screen inside Agia Kyriaki

The churchyard is also the last resting place of King Eric I of Denmark, who died in Paphos on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1103. Eric was also known as Eric the Good, but curiously his pilgrimage was to atone for the drunken murder of four of his own men!

Feral pigeon roost Panagia Chrysopolitissa

Not far from Agia Kyriaki is Saint Solomoni Church. This is in a catacomb cut from the living rock. Solomoni fled from the Holy Land in AD168 and is reputed to have taken up residence here, in a Hellenistic tomb.

Me descending into Saint Solomoni church

After descending the 20 steps into the ground you find a small chapel where there is a spring that is supposed to cure eye complaints. There are also some frescos, although to be honest it was so dark all I could see were the devotional candles left by the faithful.

Devotional offerings Saint Solomoni Church

The most curious thing though is the terebinth tree outside the catacomb, here rags are tied to the tree’s branches to ask for divine favours for sick relatives, which are supposed to be granted as the rags begin to rot, a pagan sympathetic magic practice incorporated into the church perhaps?

The final ancient site we visited was the Tombs of the Kings. This site is a short bus ride (fare €1 adult, child free) from Paphos. This is real Indiana Jones country and we spent most of the afternoon exploring the rock cut tombs, that date back to the 4th century BC.

Tombs of the Kings

The scale of the necropolis is huge, but apparently none of the tombs ever contained a king, just mere officials.

Rock cut tombs

Aside from the tombs themselves the site is a good place to see birds and reptiles as well as lots of wild flowers in the Spring. Admission was €1.70.

One thought on “A Bit of Archeology – Paphos Cyprus

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