Cyprus and Jerusalem's Long Shadow: Building Holy Sepulchres in the Holy Isle

Annemarie Weyl Carr

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA

The ICMA lecture used one mural cycle as a way of probing the cultural role of Greek monasteries during Cyprus’ rule by Catholic, Crusader kings.  It was devoted to the thirteenth-century frescoes in the church of St. Herakleidios in the monastery of St. John Lampadistes, Kalopanagiotis.  Though marginally earlier and adorning a far more ancient and imposing institution, the cycle at St. Herakleidios has never drawn the scholarly attention given to the cycle of 1280 at Moutoullas in the same mountain valley.  This lecture endeavored to give the site the attention that its age and magnitude would seem to demand.  It did so by focusing on the frescoes of the western arm, and offering three arguments about it.  1) What look like senselessly divergent styles and iconographic choices are in fact a deliberately composed program designed to link the church with the sites of the Passion in Jerusalem and so to place the viewer in them.  This may be because St. Herakleidios was itself a “holy sepulchre,” housing the tomb of St. John Lampadistes; it may be because the Holy Land sites exercised a powerful hold on the imagination of a community as close to Jerusalem as Cyprus was.  2) The institution was unquestionably Orthodox, but its imagery includes elements surely belonging to the art of the Frankish nobility and clearly bespeaking contacts with it.  Thus it shows that the monastery was a site of cultural mediation, meaningfully using in an Orthodox setting elements of Frankish as well as of Orthodox expression.  3) The reason for the monastery’s efflorescence in the 1270s when the cycle seems to have been painted might be linked to the impact of Bulla Cypria, which made the see to which Kalopanagiotis belonged the seat of the Orthodox bishop of Nicosia and the head of the Church of Cyprus.  Thus, it was both prominent and in regular contact with the powerful of the land.

Photo credit Gerald L. Carr