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Situated in the southern foothills of the Pentadaktylos Mountains, west of Buffavento castle, less than 1 mile (1.5 km) north of Sychari (Kyrenia district), at 500m a.s.l. next to the chapel of Saint Sabas. The site was partly excavated in the 1960s [BCH 88 (1964) 376; Papageorgiou (1964) 82-83, Papageorgiou (1965a) 91].

Description: The church is of the domed octagon type with only six supports under the dome: two free-standing piers to the east, two engaged piers in the west wall and one in the middle of the north and south walls. The tripartite sanctuary has barrel vaulted bays, a large apse with three windows, and inscribed small lateral apses. Rubble masonry was used throughout the structure, with the exception of the arches and the engaged piers built of brick (alternating brick and stone in the free-standing piers). A non-bonding apsidal narthex was added later (the west window of the naos had to be walled). The church was built contemporaneously with the now ruined refectory and other buildings for the monastery [Papacostas (1999a) 6.B.I.12]. The refectory to the north of the church is an elongated cross-vaulted (?) hall (c.5 x 20m) with an apse on the east wall (bearing traces of fresco). The window arches and the transversal arch responds of the original north wall (carrying the vaults) were built in brick [Papageorgiou (1963) 82-83]. The structure was extensively restored in 1965-69: the site was excavated (an hypocaust belonging to a later Turkish bath was found, as well as a later south wall), the west and south walls, the cross-vaults over the three bays, the barrel vault over the east bay and the conch of the apse were rebuilt [ARDA 1965, 9, 1966: 10, 1969: 11; AD 20 (1965) 615; BCH 89 (1965) 298; MKE 3, 107-8; Papageorgiou (1964) 210-12, Papageorgiou (1965a) 91, Papageorgiou (1968a) 11-12; Karageorghis (1990) 27]. Apart from the irregular rock-cut Enkleistra refectory [Mango and Hawkins (1966) 186-90 and 202-3], this is the only surviving Byzantine refectory on Cyprus, which is similar in plan and dimensions to middle Byzantine refectories elsewhere, such as those of the mid-11th century Nea Mone on Chios [Bouras (1982) 170-74] and the 12th-century Kiliselik monastery near Herakleia lake (Bafa Gölü) in Caria [RBK 5, 679-82 and 715; further examples in Orlandos (1958) 45-56].

Dating: A late 11th century date for the naos has been suggested, based on the style of the surviving fresco fragments and the extensive use of brick in the masonry [Papageorgiou (1963) 80-81, Papageorgiou (1985a) 330-31; a 13th-century date has been proposed by Soteriou for all Cypriot domed octagons and Apsinthiotissa, where he detects Armenian influence (?): Soteriou (1942) 429-31]. A 12th-century date has been suggested for the narthex based on the fresco style and its apsidal layout [Papageorgiou (1963) 78-79 and 81, Papageorgiou (1964) 353; Karageorghis (1990) 27].

Later additions / alterations: The vaulting of the naos was strengthened with the addition of arches and buttresses under the dome in late medieval times [shown on Papageorgiou’s plan as 14th and 15th-century additions: Papageorgiou (1963) 76; see also MKE 3, 107-8]. At the same time the vault of the narthex (central part) was rebuilt with ribs (15th century?) [Enlart/Hunt (1987) 205-6; Gunnis (1936) 434; Papageorgiou (1963) 75]. The original apse decoration with Deesis was replaced in the 15th century by a Virgin with Archangels [Papageorgiou (1964) 274; BCH 114 (1990) 983-85]; later, the north apse of the narthex collapsed and was replaced by a straight wall [MKE 3, 107-8].

Modern repairs: By the early 1960s the structure survived only up to vault springing level [as shown in the section in Papageorgiou (1963) 77]. The superstructure was rebuilt somewhat arbitrarily in 1963-67: the missing vault parts of the narthex and the west porch were reconstructed (despite the lack of evidence about their original form), the bema vaults were repaired (according to the evidence of the surviving prothesis vault) and the missing southeast pier was rebuilt. The later additions (the apse arch and the masonry around the dome piers) were removed, and the walled southernmost door between narthex and naos was opened revealing the concealed fresco decoration. The squinches were rebuilt (only that in the northwest was still partly standing with its original roof tiles), as was the dome with twelve windows (although there was no evidence concerning its drum; the example of Antiphonetes was followed). A new floor was laid and gypsum panels were installed in the windows [ARDA 1963, 11, 1964, 9, 1965, 9; Papageorgiou (1964) 274-76, Papageorgiou (1965a) 293-97, Papageorgiou (1968a) 10-11; Karageorghis (1990) 26-27], while the surviving fresco fragments (Communion and Prelates on the apse wall, Virgin cycle on the diakonikon south wall) were consolidated and cleaned [Papageorgiou (1964) 352-53; ARDA 1968, 11, 1971, 13; AD 29 (1973/74) 1015].

Early literature: Visited by Barskij (1735) who saw a derelict church with its dome still standing [Stylianou (1957) 48-49, Grishin (1996) 30-31]. By the late 19th century the upper parts had collapsed [Enlart/Hunt (1987) 205-6; also described in Jeffery (1907a) 8-9 and Jeffery (1918) 275-76].

Views: Enlart/Hunt (1987) 205 [narthex]; Karageorghis (1990) 26 [church during and after the repairs].

Plan / section: Jeffery (1915/16) 117; Papageorgiou (1963) 77 [monastic complex]; Department of Antiquities Archive C.4849.