Thursday, December 31, 2009


The painted monastaries of Cyprus are tucked away up in the Troudos mountains, poor enough to not be a target for invaders, and protected by an indiginous population which had a lot of time for the Byzantine church. They enjoy UNESCO world heritage status. That means that a lot of money has been expended to keep them safe...they all have electricity and water (for fire fighting) brought to them for instance. I don't even want to think how expensive and difficult it was to get pressurized water for fire fighting to these remote locations!
All the churches have been covered with these tiled roofs.
Inside you can see the pretty frescos. The ones above for instance, are from 1494.

Its not all frescos of course, the "lebanese" cedar carves up into pretty sweet work.

Me...I love that door. click on the image to enlarge them. The detail is lovely.

Some of the frescos were painted on the outside walls. That is the reason for the tiled roofs. They protect the frescos and for that matter, the wooden doors and lintels from the weather. Lorne was interested in how they got the tiles to stay on.

It seems that the rafters are 4 by 4s supporting 1 by 3s with an inch gap between them. The tiles have a lip which curls down from their top edge, which hooks into the gap. They stay put because of their own weight.

We saw three monastaries that day...this was the last one...the proprietor was just locking up when we arrived. He was happy to see us, and brought us down to the monastary. This was particularly impressive....the colours were so bright and was as if they had been painted only last year!
They seem to have some fairly intense lighting on them though. It all seems to be the same everywhere, and likely is special low UV light. They would not let me take any pictures, and certainly not any flash pictures.

I wanted to get these guys though...because, well, this IS an armouring blog. Check out the scale and leather. The above picture is 12th century Byzantine, and is a fine representation of an officer's armour. The leather faulds, arrow resistant leather and bronze cuirass and bronze greaves mark him as a horseman, and the large white cloak has a significance which I am uncertain of. The use of cloaks was widespread at the time to denote rank. White, or light gray...I think meant close to but not quite royal family. I am thinking it is meant to represent St. Barnabas, the governor of Cyprus when St. Paul showed up to preach.

The two guys down below are officer and soldier. The more common scarlet cloak is a dead giveaway, The swords are quite late period though...a style suited to well into the 12, maybe even the 13th century. (or even later...) The Franks ruled Cyprus from 1191 to 1489, so the presence of a sword that would not be out of place in Pontiu would fit neatly here, even if the artist was painting with more of the byzantine styles.

The whole field of Byzantine art is a tremendous and fascinating, and rewarding one. They had their rules that they followed, the symetrical eyes, the tiny mouths, and so forth, but much detail is bang on accurate.

I think I shall create an essay and post it here on the subject of armour as depicted in iconography. It might mean a visit to Constantinople. Ahhh I have ta?
click on these images to enlarge...

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