A day at Pelendri and Palaichori
As we prepare to close the liturgical year A and welcome the time of Advent prior to Christmas, a pilgrimage was organized for our parish of Saint Paul in Paphos.
Three small buses were hired; they had to be small in order to negotiate the narrow roads of those ancient villages on the heights of Troodos Mountain.
Our first stop was the church dedicated to the Holy Cross at Pelendri. At an altitude of 880m at the southern end of the village, the Holy Cross church was built at the end of the 12th century.
Originally a one-aisled domed basilica, it was extended in later times by a northern and southern aisles. The frescoes that decorate its walls date from the 12th and 14th centuries and reflect different iconographic styles: the Cappadocian which is the oldest, the Palaeologian (from Constantinople) and the Cretan.
In the northern aisle a heraldic seal dated from the middle fourteenth century on a painting reveals that that part of church was used as a private chapel by the Latin feudal lord Jean de Lusignan brother of Pierre de Lusignan, then, king of Cyprus. Jean de Lusignan and his wife are kneeling at either side of the feet of Jesus depicted showing his wounds to Thomas.
After an inspiring inspection of the interior of the church we all gathered outside to celebrate the Holy Mass. Although permission was granted to celebrate inside the church, our numbers would not allow it, being about ninety persons. F. Miguel celebrated the Holy Eucharist under the distant rumblings of thunder and the threat of imminent rain. However, no rain came and everything went on smoothly.
A minor problem in one of our buses forced us to remain longer at Pelendri and had our lunch there, in the open air by a beautiful little park.
Our next destination was the nearby village of Palaichori, where we visited two more UNESCO protected painted churches. First, the church of Panaghia Chrysopantanassa, (our Lady, Golden Queen of the Universe) at a central and picturesque street of the village. Its frescoes date from the 16th century and again its donors were Latin, Venetian this time.
Below there are pictures of a road at Palaichori (with f. Miguel walking in the middle of the street), the church of Pantanassa (western view) and the original icon of Panaghia Chrysopantanassa found therein.
A local resident, Mr. Kyriakos, was very kind to serve as our guide and led us through the beautiful art treasures of the church. We spent a considerable time there admiring the awe inspiring icons and drinking avidly the perennial spiritual atmosphere of Oriental Christianity.
As it was a fresh and rainy day, we lingered near there and found hospitable traditional cafés for a warm respite.
Then, after a short drive we reached the most beautiful church of the Transfiguration of our Lord, (Aghià Sotéra) which, in order to have its external western murals protected, had a second extended roof and western and southern wall built.
Above, the western entrance and views of the first western and southern wall with the frescoes on either side of the original entrance. Below, the Virgin Mary enthroned holding Jesus on the left of the entrance.
The beauty of the icons, the scenes they depict, their vivid colours, their arrangement, all indicate the spiritual fervour and economic prosperity of Palaichori in the 16th century at the time of the Venetian hegemony.
For us, however, citizens of the modern world, who must needs to live and work in the increasingly challenging conditions of the 21st century, the pilgrimage to the Christian treasures at Troodos on the very day of the feast of Christ King of the Universe, has been one more weapon in the armoury of our Christian virtues of hope, of perseverance and of endurance. The realization that we belong to this unceasing stream of spiritual life and creation that is the Church, gives us a particular vision of the world. A vision of courage and optimism, of service and sacrifice, of faith and love.
After all, we know that the world belongs to us and we belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. (1 Cor. 3, 21-23). All sovereignty and power are His, we are in good hands! Happy Advent!
Irene Meerman, 23 Nov. 2014