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CHURCH OF PANAGIA CHRYSOLOFITISSA

Standing on a hill west of Lofou is the main church of the village which is dedicated to the Annunciation of Virgin Mary. The church was constructed in the 19th century. More specifically, the construction of the central building of the church began in 1854 and was completed in 1872. It is a single-roomed church bearing features of gothic art and mainly on its roof. Its floor is covered with small square mosaic marbles with dimensions 20x20. The church is 30.5 metres long and 13 metres and 30 centimetres wide.    

The interior of the church is adorned by exquisite hagiographies, an imposing chancel, the despotic throne, the pulpit and the wooden faldstool. The hagiographies were designed by Othonas Giavropoulos (grandfather of the former president of the Republic of Cyprus Giorgos Vasileiou), while the chancel and despotic throne were designed by Eftechios Leptourgou. What is also worth mentioning is that the hagiographies of the church were entirely designed by Othonas Giavropoulos and the work lasted from 1910 until 1919.

Moreover, the interior of the church is adorned by a women’s mezzanine floor, the beauty of which is unique. As it is distinctively mentioned on the website of the Association of Expatriates*, the uniqueness of the mezzanine floor lies on the fact that the women enter the floor without coming into contact with the rest of the people attending the church. In particular, they enter the mezzanine floor from two small doors which lead to a flight of stairs located in between the walls.  

In the church there are old icons of Virgin Mary, one dated back to the 11th century which is located inside the Holy Bema and a second one which, according to Gunnis, is dated back to the 16th century. With regard to the latter, as it is preserved by the expatriates of the Community, tradition has it that a clumsy painter once tried to recreate the painting of Virgin Mary and Virgin Mary punished him for his attempt.

Externally, the church is adorned by two bell towers made of stone which were completed at the beginning of the 20th century and more specifically in 1910. The first bell tower is more imposing that the second one. In particular, the first bell tower has three levels with a big bell which in the old years and more specifically on important holidays used to be heard up to the neighbouring villages of Lania, Kyvides and Koilani. Today, the sound of the bell is not so loud as the volume of the sound has decreased due to the fact that it runs on electricity. In the past, this bell tower had a rich decoration including four angels and eight elaborate lions, four of which have been transferred to the entrance of the church and two at the fountain located outside the church. This relocation took place in order to solve the problems they were causing to the bell tower. The other bell tower has a small bell and only one level. In the past, the bell also functioned as a school bell, since its sound would call children to attend their morning and afternoon classes.    

Particularly interesting is the information regarding the construction of the church. According to tradition, the church was built at the point where some shepherds had found the icon of Virgin Mary. To be more exact, those shepherds used to live in Phoinikas, an area south of Lofou and they would lead their flock to the present location of the village. For several nights the shepherds saw a light from their shelter, which used to be a cave called “Cave of Hadjiroussos”. When they decided to go to the place where the light appeared, they searched in the thick vegetation and found the icon of Virgin Mary, which they transferred back to their cave. However, the icon vanished on the next day. It was in fact transferred back to the place where it had been found. Then, the shepherds decided to clean the area where they had found the icon, build a small house and place an icon of Virgin Mary and a vigil light there. Later on, in the middle of the 19th century, the church was built in the place of the small house.

What is noteworthy is that all the residents of Lofou worked voluntarily for the construction of the church. The only ones who got paid were the technicians who came from other areas. Each villager would undertake a task, for example to transfer water, stones or lime. The construction works were supervised by the priest of the village. In fact, the Association of Expatriates has preserved the following testimony: “when it was time for a rich resident of Lofou to transfer and pay for water that was going to be used for the construction of the church, he chose wine because he had plenty of stock and it was much cheaper”.

Sources:
Lofou Community Council
Association of Expatriates’ website: www.salofou.org

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