By Chris Elliott
This is one place I had to go to see for myself the beauty and also tranquil surroundings from times gone by.
Source : Esentepe Community
“It’s known that this church was used to be the seed of an important monastery. Its dome is placed on eight round columns which form an irregular octagon. The part called bema and the rest of the church were tried to be separated by keeping two of the columns separated from the walls. Considering its features this building is one of the finest of its kind in Cyprus which remains today.
The nartex part with barrel vaults on the west and cloister arrangements on the south were added in the 14th or 15th centuries. The cloister arrangement on the south is a unique example of gothic stone work. However, nothing left behind from the wooden upper-cover and the stone parapet made between the columns.
Antiphonitis means “Replying Christ”. The building in its original form was fully covered with wall paints (Frescos) instead of nartex. Most of these frescos have unfortunately disappeared. The frescos can be dated in two different periods : 12th or 13th centuries and 14th or 15th centuries. Besides the Biblical themes, the frescos also describe the Saints. Moreover, although they couldn’t survive till today, it’s known that themes from the Old Testament were also described. Baptise of Christ, Birth of Mary, St. Symeon Stylites are among the wall paints which still remain till today.
ESKİ ESERLER ve MÜZELER DAİRESİ
DEPARTMENT OF ANTIQUITIES AND MUSEUMS”
From the village follow signs to the school. At the roundabout take the first exit left and follow the road to a junction. Carry straight on for approx 5 km and Antiphonitis is signposted on the left.
Editors Note: (Chris Elliott)
Having read the above and seen the fascinating pictures of this church on Esentepe Community website, I decided to make a visit to this church to see for myself this ancient building and also the paintings on the walls and ceiling.
The directions to church are good and it’s a direct route from the coast road up the winding road to the village of Esentepe and as you pass through, you will see signs directing you towards St Antiphonitis and you just continue on until you reach the roundabout mentioned and from there the journey will take you through the forest on a narrow road leading towards the church.
From the junction leading to the church, you drive down the mountain and eventually arrive in a good-sized gravel parking area in front of the church which is surrounded with a traditional rock wall.
Inside the gate you will find some buildings to the left where I found a very friendly custodian who charged a small entrance fee and then I sat in the shade at a number of long tables where you could sit and admire the church and perhaps take refreshments from the Bufe/Cafe, although being late afternoon when I arrived, it was closed. I also noticed there was a very clean and modern toilet facility for visitors to use.
There are some incredible views from the small garden area looking seawards and into the valley and clearly, beyond a locked garden gate and further down the mountain, there are signs of other more modern structures perhaps water storage or sewage associated with the church. Had the gate been unlocked I feel the walk down would have been difficult for some visitors.
So what of the church, well you can clearly see the original church which it is believed to have been built-in the 12th century with its domed roof seemingly added in the 15th century. The addition of nartex with its entrance and the cloisters which were added as noted in the 14th to 15th centuries.
Going inside is was surprised again to find the interior in a very clean condition and my breath was taken away at the sight of the frescos all over the walls and ceilings. Sadly these have suffered with the passage of time with plaster and paintwork having fallen away in some areas mainly at low-level leaving behind the rocky walls. I was also surprised at the disfigurement of some the frescos by graffiti and in one area I found a large number dating from the 1930s. Was this church open and cared for then, perhaps we will never know.
One thing is sure that the building has now been secured and is under the care of the TRNC Antiquities and Museums Department and like so many other ancient buildings around the world it takes a great deal of money and the support of specialist experts to restore buildings back to their former glory.
Sadly, here in North Cyprus, we see very little financial support or the help of experts from the outside world due to the ongoing political issues and embargoes. Still this church is part of the wonderful heritage of Cyprus and is well worth a visit to admire the creativity and dedication of people from the past and just sit in their garden area and enjoy the tranquility.
With thanks to Graham Brown and Esentepe Community for the shared photos and article about Antiphonitas Church.
Click here to view Esentepe Community website