The First Basilicas of Cyprus

Ayios Philon Church, seen from the baptismal font of the ancient basilica

Ayios Philon Church from the
10th Century

The first great basilicas of Cyprus were begun after Theodosius I in 380AD mandated the Christian religion to be the faith of the Roman Empire. Up unto that time, Christians met in small out-of-the-way places around the island, sometimes in underground churches, sometimes in homes, or even in caves.

From the 4th Century onward, under the protection and endorsement of the Empire, Christianity triumphed, and what better way to show the power and prestige of Christianity than to build magnificent churches.

 

 

Most of the first basilicas of Cyprus of the late 4th and early 5th centuries were built on earlier christian church houses, pagan temples, or on or adjacent to synagogues. The style was the same as those found in the Levant and Anatolia which had a rectangular wooden-roof structure with two aisles and three apses at the eastern end. This style lasted about 300 years.

Paragliders over Kourion Basilica with the sea cliffs in the background

Basilica of Kourion 

It would not be until th mid 10th Century that magnificent structures with at least five aisles and multiple stone domes became the norm. These structures did not last well, however strong they appeared, in the seismic region of the Eastern Mediterranean where three tectonic plates meet in the sea just south of the Cyprus.  In Paphos, a small Byzantine Church is in use, but in Kourion, Salamis, Pilon, and Soli only what remains of the the mosaic floors give evidence of the magnificence of these structures.

The Ruins of Chrysopolitissa Basilica, with St Paul's Church built atop them

 Basilica of Chrysopolitissa in Paphos built next to the Synagogue where St. Paul was whipped. 

Center Aisle of Ayios Epiphanios Basilica at Salamis

Ayios Epiphanios’ Basilica in Salamis was once the largest basilica on the island.

The Basilica at Kourion

The Basilica of Kourion has spectacular views and was built over a temple site. 

The "Fallen Column" at the head of a basilica aisle

The Basilica of St. Auxibius in Soli where St. Mark baptized Auxibius.

Ayios Philon church seen from the slips of the adjacent Roman Harbor

Ayios Philon Basilica on the Northeast Coast is built over a Phoenician site. 

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