How many names are used to designate an island which has been at the point of intersection of historical developments for millennia? Alesija , Iatnana , Cyprium : between these designations lies a span from the Neolithic period to the Roman Empire . And the name by which it was finally to be known for centuries comes in more than one spelling : Cyprus , Kibris , Kypros - one often has to consult three different volumes in alphabetically arranged works of reference before finding what one is looking for ! And often enough the findings are paltry , because the island does not just lie at the point of intersection , but in the shadow of the peoples who developed their own history on it and around it .

The bewildering variety of names of places and peoples reflects the genesis a little further : Greek sound shifts (hagia , agia , ayia , Barnabas or Varnavas ) and Roman superimpositions (Kition or Kitium , endings in -os or -us) lead to several correct variants .

In addition there is the juxtaposition of Greek and Turkish designations which are , admittedly , rarely to be found together on one map . The mosques of the Moslems and the churches which were or are used by Latin and Orthodox Christians testify to the inhabitants' religious differentiation . The fact that these houses of God not infrequently stand on the ruins of ancient shrines tells us something of the structures of power , just as much as the fact (about which more anon) that the churches were converted into mosques and -sometimes- were returned to the Christians again .

Many lords ruled the country , gods and kings , archbishops and the emperor's representatives , pilgrims , crusaders and warriors , noble women and semi-degenerate figures have left traces in part weathered , often enough no longer decipherable . The periods of independence were somewhat rarer .

On the voyage of discovery into past greatness , the present remains insistently alive , particularly in Cyprus with its painful 'green line' which does not at all fit in with this colour's customary ascription of hope . The island state is too much a part of Europe , lying too far in the most easterly corner of the Mediterranean for it to remain spared from the conflicts between Orient and Occident . But a conflict dating back thousands of years only knows victors superficially .

The twenty-year long partition of the island is too present in its inhabitants' emotions , a constant thorn of sadness and anger . Too many have fled from the North to the South , from the South to the North ; too many have lost their house and home ; it is just too unnatural to look over to the other side and yet not be able to travel there . Because in contrast to tourists , it is not possible for Cypriots to cross the demarcation line .

Although it is possible to see the sea from nearly every point , Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean followed by innumerable other ones right down to uninhabited rocks . It is itself the ruler over sandy , palm-lined beaches , cliffs on which the waves can break in frothy foam - the foam out of which Aphrodite , the ancient goddess of love is said to have been born - through winters in the mountains rich in snow and the summer air shimmering in the heat . Its cedar groves are as beautiful as the Biblical regions of Lebanon . Even the over-exploitation by pre-Christian peoples with their well-nigh insatiable demand for construction material for ships was unable to completely destroy the wealth , whereas elsewhere all round 'mare nostrum' the soil of the cleared forests has become irretrievably karstified .

On Cyprus , not only do the sun , mountains and sea promise recreation , there is much to be discovered here , much to experience . The rich tradition and superb landscapes do not only cast their spell on the culturally interested . And this book has information and suggestions ready for a trip into the past , helping when uncovering the treasures and deepening knowledge about what has been seen . It shows and explains the finest and most important architectural monuments from one of the formative epochs , not only for Cyprus , but for the world of the Eastern Church as a whole : from the age of an Empire which lasted for over a thousand years - Byzantium .

One point should be explained : all the terms which play a role in this book should never be confused with similar or even homonymous political designations ; they are used exclusively in accordance with their art historical meaning .

In addition to numerous individuals who are named in part in the Appendix of this book , our thanks are due to the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture , the Press and Information Office and the Archaeological Museum , all of which are located in Nicosia . We would also like to express our gratitude to the Cyprus Department of Antiquities for permission to photograph the frescoes in the churches in Cyprus .