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Agios Nicolaos Stegis

"Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis" (literally, Saint Nicholas of the Roof), located close to the mountainous Kakopetria, is the only thing remaining from an old monastery. As it is made obvious by the church, the monastery was established in the 11 th century. However, we have no other information about it. The ceramic (brick and tile) decor of the church associates it with Constantinople and the Greek region in general. The monastery seems to have flourished both during the Middle Byzantine era as well as the Frank domination era, judging by the repeated decoration of the church with frescoes and the large -dedicated by a Frank Knight at the end of the 13 th century -icon of St Nicholas. The monastery seems to have already declined by the 17 th century and dispersed at the end of that century. When in 1735 the Russian monk Basil Barsky visited it, he met some monks there too. Later on, the estates of the monastery were leased to clergymen and by the end of the 19 th century to laymen.

he "Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis" church is of the cross-in-a-box style with a dome. Toward the east it ends in an apse that is semicircular internally and three-sided externally. Initially it was built without a narthex. It only has one entrance in the middle of the west wall. The semicircular, "blind" arch above the entrance is decorated with "phialostomia". Phialostomia also decorate the blind arches opening between the four windows of the dome and the cornice, on top of the "tympanon" (round base), which is crowned by bricks that are placed diagonally so as to form a cogged strip. The church was illuminated through two windows, one in the south-west and one in the northwest compartment of the church, a two-lobed window on the west wall, an initially two-lobed window high up on the north wall, and an arched window in the semicircular wall of the apse. Repeated repairs had as a result the destruction of the church's original appearances. Initially, there were two gradual blind arches on the west wall, north and south of the entrance. On the north wall, next to the window of the north-west compartment, there is a blind arch made of alternating stones and bricks just like the nearby window.

In the beginning of the 12 th century, the narthex, with three deep, "blind" arches in the east and west side that are supported by strong pilasters, was added on the west wall. Today's north wall of the narthex is a latter addition, since it is covering some frescoes. If it had the form of an apse or if it was built further north, it is not known. In any case, the south wall was straight from the start. The narthex had an entrance in the middle of the west wall and one in the middle of the south wall. If there was also a door in the middle of the north wall, like there is today, it is not known. When today's north door of the church was opened in the 15 th century and the two-lobed window over it became single-lobed, then the west door of the narthex was closed and in its place the fresco of St. George on horseback was created, after a donation by a certain Ioannis Trifyllis.

At the end of the 12 th or the beginning of the 13 th century, the church of St Nicholas was covered with a second, V-shaped, roof that hides the original cross-like arrangement of the vaults and the dome. This second roof with the hook-like tiles had given the nickname to St. Nicholas "tis Stegis" (of the roof) -as the inscription on St Nicholas's icon reveals -as early as the 13 th century.

Since the 11 th century, the church was decorated with frescoes. However, few of the 11 th century frescoes are extant today. These frescoes stand out for their rough features, the intense strokes of the brush (schematic lines), the limited coloring, and yet for the intense psychism -especially in the saints' portraits -as we describe further below:

In the semi-dome of the apse the Virgin Mary is depicted standing up, in a stance of prayer between the archangels Michael and Gabriel, which are dressed with an imperial uniform and in a head-on stance. In the east arch, above the Bema, there are depictions of the Ascension (north half) and the Pentecost (south half). In the west arch there is a depiction of the Transfiguration and of Lazarus's Raising from the Dead (south half) and the "Vaioforos" (Palm-bearing, north half). On the west wall, above the entrance, there is the -quite worn out -Assumption of the Virgin Mary. On the north wall, under the scene with the "Myrofores" (Myrrh-bearers) , in front of the cenotaph and partially covered by it, there are depiction of Christ's Removal from the Cross and of Christ's Sepulture.

On the east wall, south of the apse, there is a picture of St Zechariah. In the shallow, blind arch over the west entrance, there is a depiction of St Nicholas, which is quite worn-out. When the narthex was added it was decorated with the scene of the Second Coming. Today, however, most of it is ruined.

The church's icon screen is dated back to the 17 th century. The Bema Doors and the icon of St Nicholas, as well as the icons of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the icon screen, are the works of Paul the hagiographer. Perhaps the Cross is also the work of the same painter.

UNESCO has included the church of "St Nicholas of the Roof" in the list of Worldwide Cultural heritage, because of its special value.


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