Archaeological Complex of Chrysopolitissa in Pafos

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Archaeological Complex of Chrysopolitissa in Pafos is a group of a ruined basilica and church structures dating as far back as the late fourth century CE. The importance of the site stems from the episode of Saint Paul being scourged at Pafos during his visit. Several churches and basilicas were built here successively. Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas visited Cyprus in 45 CE as mentioned in the Book of Acts (13 verses 5-12) and converted the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus.

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This place of worship preserves its religious charcter from the fourth century CE until today. A smaller church was constructed most probably after the Arab conquest in the seventh century CE in the area that was previously occupied by the large early Christian basilica. This church was demolished around 1500 CE. During the thirteenth or fourteenth century CE, to the north of the five-aisled basilica, a gothic church is built, probably the Latin Cathedral of Pafos which was abandoned in the early Ottoman period. The current church of Ayia Kyriaki was built in the sixteenth century CE to the north-east of the large basilica. Archaeological investigation brought to light numerous medieval graves around the church, which were enriched by local and imported ceramic pots and by other personal objects.

Notable Structures

circa 380-550 CE

First Church
The first Christian Basilica of Chrysopolitissa, erected at the end of the fourth century CE (first architectural phase), was divided in to seven aisles by six rows of columns. The eastern wall of the basilica was rectilinear and the apse was positioned ten meters to the west within the nave, creating a square area at the eastern edge of the nave. This area was separated from the lateral aisles by four granite columns,two on each stylobate, approx seven (7.15) meters high and approx one (0.95) meter in diameter. During this phase, the whole floor of the basilica was at the same level and was covered with mosaics and geometric decorations.

circa 550-650 CE

Second Basilica
During the sixth century CE (second architectural phase) the original seven-aisled basilica was drastically renovated and transformed in to a five-aisled basilica, enlarging the width of the lateral aisles. The apse of the first phase was demolished, three new apses (inspect) were erected to the east while the whole floor was raised. The central apse, which was the eastern edge of the nave was semi-circular internally and five-sided on the exterior. The apses of the two inner lateral aisles were semi-circular internally and three-sided (inspect) on the outside. The nave was paved with a new opus sectile floor, and the lateral aisles with new mosaic floors. Each colonnade had twelve columns supporting Corinthian capitals, placed on marble bases.

Internally, the walls of the basilica were covered with marble slabs until a certain height since the higher points were decorated with wall mosaics and frescoes, fragments of which were discovered during the excavations.

To the west was the narthex which extended over the southern limits of the bisilica and connected the church with the episcopal palace via a stone paved corridor, which was located to the south. A triple passage (tribilon) permitted the communication of the narthex with the main church.

circa 550-650 CE

Atrium of Second Basilica
To the west of the narthex there was an atrium surrounded by four porticoes (quadriportico). The pavement of both porticoes and the central courtyard were covered with mosaics in the center of the atrium there was a circular fountain. Three gates on the western wall of the atrium gave access to the complex from the stone-paved street which is further to the west.

circa 1200/1300 CE

Latin-Gothic Medieval Church
The Gothic church lies to the north of the Early Christian basilica of Chrysopolitissa. The monument was brought to light by the excavations of the Department of Antiquities, between 1968-70 CE. It is beleived thatthis was the Latin cathedral of Paphos. It was probably built towards the end of thirteenth or beginning of the fourteenth century CE and was renovated in themid sixteenth century CE. During the early Ottoman period the church was abandoned and gradually fell in to disuse.

The church is divided by three aisles with two rows of rectangular pillars. The aisles end in three semi-circular apses. About half-way along the north and south walls were chapels containing burials. To the south of the church, four underground vaulted chambers were discovered as well.

Several fragments of wall paintings were discovered during the archaeological excavations, indicating that the interior of the church was originally decorated. Among the movable finds are four limestone statues of angels dated to the sixteenth century CE, now in the Paphos District Archaeological Museum.

circa 1540 CE

Church of Ayia Kyriaki
The church of Ayia Kyriaki is constructed in the north-eastpart of the five-aisled sixth century CE Christian Basilica, occupying part of the nave and the two nortern aisles. According to the written sources this church was the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Paphos.

During the first phase, dated probably in the fifteenth and sixteenth century CE, the church was of the free cross type with a dome. The length of its cross arms is unequal, as the western is longer than the other ones. The eastern arm ends in an apse, semi-circular internally and five-sided externally. The drumof the domeis eight-sided externally and has four windows on its cadinal points.

At a later stage, the four corner compartments wereadded so that today the church is a variation ofthecross-in-square type. The church's dimensions are 26 meters in length and twelve meters in width. The windows in the middle of the northern and southern wall were created during a secondary intervention.

After the earthquake of 1953 CE, the church suffered significant damage; the south-east section and the bell-tower collapsed and the dome cracked. During the reconstruction works, a buttress was added at the point of contact between the south-east bay and the wall of the southern cross arm. In addition some necessary works took place inside the church to ensurethe structural stability of the monument.

The preservation of the wall-paintings of the church is fragmentary on the southern wall of the western arm where frescoes depict standing saints, probably dating back to the beginning of the sixteenth century CE.

Notable Legends

Unknown Date

Saint Paul's Pillar
To the north of the atrium is a low-pillar where according to local tradition, the people from Paphos tied Saint Paul and whipped him thirty-nine times. Interestingly, medieval travelers or accounts do not make any mention of this pillar, but only of an underground prison of the apostle Paul.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas, Paul and Mark visited Paphos in 45 CE during their first missionary journey to Cyprus. In Paphos the then capital of the islan and the seat of the Roman governor, Saint Paul preached Christianity. The Roman governor Sergius Paulus, converted to this new religion, triggering the Christianization of Cyprus.

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