Cyprus Arts and Culture


Cyprus has been the subject of various colonizations and dominations over the centuries: Cretans, Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans and English have followed one another on its territory, leaving more or less profound marks in the artistic, cultural and traditional heritage. of the island. From an artistic point of view, archaic finds coexist with the remains of temples and theaters built by Romans and Greeks; Hellenistic tombs with Christian catacombs; Orthodox churches and cathedrals are flanked by Islamic mosques; British military bases to Venetian fortifications. Also in the field of traditions Cyprus stands out for the amalgamation of Greek and Cypriot customs and traditions. It is not surprising the presence, on both sides of the dividing line, of the same rhythms and musical instruments and the same dances. A profoundly discriminating role between the South and the North of the country is instead that played by language. After taksim of 1974 the residents of the North extended the use of Turkish, renaming places and objects traditionally defined with Greek terms with Turkish names. According to recipesinthebox, a similar Hellenization took place in the Republic of the South. The difficult coexistence between the two ethnic groups is a theme that permeates all aspects of Cypriot life, to the point of becoming the subject of films such as Fango by Dervis Zaim, awarded in 2003 at the International Exhibition. film art of Veniceand the first case of Turkish-Cypriot co-production.


The island is rich in archaeological finds, from the Neolithic (4000 BC) to the Roman age (50 BC-395 AD). From the Bronze Age – when Cyprus was of great importance for its copper mines – are the fortresses of Niovikla, Nikolides, and perhaps also Idalion. Throughout the Bronze period, we also witness the creation of a distinctive ceramic facies, called Cypriot, of which interesting examples remain, while the Asian influence appears alive in the arts. Prominent cities are Kourion, near Episkope, and Enkomi, which attest to a cultural dichotomy between the eastern part of the island, linked to the Asian coast, and the western part where the Mycenaean artistic culture prevails. In the Iron Age, despite the partial conquests of the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians and finally Persians, Cyprus was the center of a wide and original artistic flourishing, especially manifested in metallurgy, ivory processing and architecture. Numerous sanctuaries (already appeared in the late Bronze Age), first in the shape of a house-chapel, then with a larger open enclosure; even in the Hellenistic and Roman age the temples had particularly asymmetrical shapes (Vuni). The most important archaeological sites, besides Enkomi, Kition (today Lárnaca) and Soloi, are Agias Iakovos, with the oldest temples on the island and remarkable sculptures, Vuni (with the grandiose palace), Salamina (with the gymnasium and other Roman remains). Archaic Cypriot sculpture, generally votive, began at the end of the century. VII a. C. under the Syrian-Anatolian influence (according to other Assyrians) and retains provincial forms in the accentuated treatment of the details of the face on a very superficial modeling of the body.

§ During the Byzantine period basilical churches were built and the ancient centers flourished. To the sec. VI-VII date back to the remains of mosaics of the church of Panagia Angeloktistos of Kiti. From the same period is the Treasury of Cyprus, found in Kyréneia in the last years of the last century and currently preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The main nucleus consists of a series of silver plates embossed with episodes from the life of David. After the manifestations of Islamic art in the period of Arab occupation (649-965), a new artistic revival took place starting from 965 with the reunification with the Byzantine Empire. Most of the Byzantine churches of the island (painted churches of the Tróodos mountains, declared by the UNESCO World Heritage Site). In 1192 Cyprus passed to the Lusignano dynasty, so that a strong Western influence was superimposed on the Byzantine and Islamic tradition. Between the century XIII and the century. In the fifteenth century numerous buildings were built in pure French Gothic style: the church of the Augustinian abbey of Bellapais (finished in 1284), the eastern door of the cathedral of Nicosia, the ruins of S. Giorgio dei Latini in Famagusta date back to the thirteenth century; to the fourteenth century the cathedral and the churches of S. Anna and SS. Peter and Paul in Famagusta, the cloister and convent buildings of Bellapais, the churches of S. Caterina and S. Sofia in Nicosia. Alongside the Latin Gothic churches, Greek churches and monasteries were built in the forms of the Cypriot-Byzantine current, which persisted even during the Venetian and Turkish dominations. The evidence of the Venetian domination (1489-1571) consists mainly of the defensive works (polygonal circle of Nicosia of 1567; walls of the city and of the citadel of Famagosta) and some public buildings (Palazzo di Famagosta, by G. Sanmicheli, 1552- 54). With the Turkish occupation (1571) began the decline of the island: the Latin churches were transformed into mosques, while Greek churches and monasteries continued to be built in the conventional forms of the previous centuries. In the twentieth century. the architecture in the Greek part of Nicosia essentially consisted in the restoration of the historic area of ​​the city (Laïki Geitonia area), which had excellent repercussions from the tourist point of view, so much so as to inaugurate similar operations in other cities of the part island both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot (Limassól, Larnaka, Famagusta). The construction in the Sixties of some public or institutional buildings (Municipal Theater, Archbishop’s Palace), follows classical forms and is not of great interest from an artistic point of view.

Cyprus Arts and Culture