In the northern foothills of the Troodos Mountains, 2 miles (3 km) south of Niketari (Nicosia district), on the east bank of the Asinou stream at 500m a.s.l. A monastery on the site is attested since the early 12th century [Papacostas (1999a) 6.B.I.70]. Medieval remains (chapels, flour-mill) were reported near the church [Winfield (1969) 4-5], while the ‘casale Assinu / Asinu’ is recorded in mid-16th century Venetian documents [Grivaud (1998) 469].
Description: The single-aisled vaulted structure with semi-circular apse was built in local sideropetra rubble using some brick for the triple apse window and the relieving arches over the north and south doors. The exterior was originally plastered and painted imitating ashlar masonry (traces survive on the south wall and on the apse). The barrel vault is carried by two rib arches on engaged piers, creating three round-arched recesses on the north and south walls. A protective timber roof, although rebuilt several times (see below), was clearly part of the original phase, as shown by the outer surface of the vault that was left untreated. This is perhaps confirmed by the depiction of the church on the donor fresco panel that copies the lost original and shows the church with its tiled roof [Papageorgiou (1975) 192-93]. As such the church is among the earliest examples of the type [cf. Amasgou]. The original fresco decoration in the west and east bays is related to contemporary cycles elsewhere on Cyprus [Megaw (1961a) 261-62, Megaw (1974) 85-86; Winfield (1972); Mouriki (1980/81) 101-2; Cormack (1984) 164-65; Hadermann-Misguich (1985) 235-36; Stylianou (1985) 117-26; Wharton (1988) 78]. According to an inscription in the southwest recess, the church was built or decorated in 1105/6 by the magistros Nikephoros Ischyrios, also named in the fragmentary apse inscription [Gibraltar et al. (1933) 337 and 342-43; Stylianou (1960) 97-99; Sacopoulo (1966) 9-16; Winfield (1969) 18-20]. The patron is shown in the later panel (presumably copying the lost original) on the south wall of the central bay, presenting the church to Christ and accompanied by a female figure and the inscription giving her date of death, 17 December 1106 [on the correct date see Mango (1976a) 7, n.14]. Most literature erroneously gives 1099 instead, based on a false reading of the abbreviations [e.g. Gibraltar et al. (1933) 343; Sacopoulo (1966) 10-11; Stylianou (1960) 98-99, Stylianou (1985) 117; Winfield (1969) 18; Wharton (1988) 76; Papageorgiou (1965b) 17, Papageorgiou (1975) 192, although see also Papageorgiou (1990) 223, n.225]: MHNI ΔHK(E)BΡIO IZ || IN(ΔIKTIΩNOC) IE ETOΥC ϚXH EKΥ || MHΘH H ΔOΥΛI TOΥ Θ(EO)Υ ΓEΦΥ || ΡA ‘in the month of December 17th, indiction 15, year 6608 [mistake for 6615], died the servant of God Gephyra’. A (non-bonding) apsidal narthex with a drumless low dome and slightly pointed arches was added later. Its masonry is made of ashlar blocks (presumably from the lowlands) with brick in the relieving arch of the west doorway [ODB vol. 1, 207-8; Wharton (1988) 76-78]. There are traces of small (now walled) arched windows on the south apse, flanking the door, also subsequently walled. An icon of Saint John the Baptist from the church (early 12th century) that is stylistically related to the frescoes [now in the Nicosia Byzantine Museum: Papageorgiou (1992) 12 and 14; Sophocleous (1994) 77] and a now lost door valve perhaps date from the time of the foundation of the church [Soteriou (1935) pl. 142].
Dating: According to the surviving inscriptions the church was founded in 1105/6. The narthex must have been added by the mid-12th century: it is usually dated very shortly before the earliest fresco decoration, namely the large Saint George on horseback panel in the south apse, a commission of Nicephorus Kallias according to the undated inscription, ascribed to the late 12th century [Mango (1969) 102-3; Winfield (1969) 19; Stylianou (1982) 140, Stylianou (1996) 1261-63; Wharton (1988) 77]. But the masonry used to block the apse door in order to provide an uninterrupted surface for the fresco panel is made of sideropetra rubble, and not in ashlar like the rest of the narthex, suggesting a rather longer period of time between the construction and the blocking.
Later addition / alterations: The conch was rebuilt, buttresses were added on the walls of the west bay, a heavy flying buttress was added on the north wall of the east bay, the rib arches were underpinned with pointed arches, an arch was erected in before the conch, and the doors were walled [Papageorgiou (1968b) 232; MKE 3, 14-17]. The door of the south apse in the narthex and the small windows flanking it were walled. The interior of both naos (conch and central bay) and narthex was decorated with several phases of fresco decoration in the later medieval period [Stylianou (1985) 126-40].
Modern repairs: In 1920 a unitary timber roof replaced the older structure in two sections (one over the naos and a lower roof over the narthex) that extended around the building [Peristianes (1922) 6]. In the 1950s the masonry was consolidated, the piers supporting the later arch in front of the apse were removed revealing frescoes, the vaults were repaired, gables were built in rubble masonry over the west façade and the apse, and a new steeper timber roof was erected [ARDA 1954, 10, 1959, 13]. In 1965-67 the frescoes were cleaned by Dumbarton Oaks [ARDA 1965, 7, 1966, 7, 1967, 10; BCH 92 (1968) 355-58; Hawkins (1966); Winfield and Hawkins (1967); Papageorgiou (1968b) 232; Mango (1969) 102-3].
Early literature: Jeffery mentions in a rather long description the (no longer preserved) ruins of monastic buildings around the church and windows with original gypsum roundels. Peristianes also reports the looting of tombs in the narthex in the 19th century [Jeffery (1918) 284; Peristianes (1922) 8].
Views: Peristianes (1922) pl. A [before 1920, with debris around and dilapidated timber roof in two sections (lower over the narthex) extending around the building, as at Lagoudera and as described by Jeffery]; Gibraltar et al. (1933) pl. XCIII and Soteriou (1935) pl. 31 [photographs taken in 1931, after the repairs of 1920, showing the unitary roof less steep than the new (present) roof of 1959 and without the later west gable]; ARDA 1959, fig. 5 [the church is shown without the timber roof, which had been removed for the repair of the vaults in 1959].
Plan / section: Jeffery (1915/16) 123 [the walled north and south doors of the narthex are omitted, although the (also walled) south door of the naos is shown; all later additions (buttresses, masonry reinforcing the engaged piers and the apse arch) have been also been omitted; a single window is shown in the apse]; Gibraltar et al. (1933) 334 [the east wall of the narthex is erroneously shown covering completely the west façade of the naos leaving only an opening for the door (cf. Soteriou’s plan); the sections erroneously show the vault over the central bay as later: see Megaw and Hawkins (1962) 284, n.22; Papageorgiou (1975) 192 and n.203; Megaw (1974) 85, n.119]; Soteriou (1935) 41 [the north narthex and south naos doors are shown still walled; the east narthex wall is correctly drawn; in the section, the naos vault rib arches are shown as later, although in the plan the engaged piers are shown as contemporary with the original structure]; Winfield and Hawkins (1967) 262 and Winfield (1969) 6 [identical sketchy plans with the same inaccuracy concerning the east wall of the narthex as noted above].