Panagia tou Araka Church
The church of Panagia tou Araka is located in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, between the villages of Lagoudera and Saranti. Since 1985, it has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.
It was built in the Middle Byzantine period, when the monastic life flourished in Cyprus. It collapsed in the 18th century, but the monastery continued to function until the first decades of the 19th century. Today, apart from the church, there is also a two-storey monastic building on the north side, which is used as the priest’s home. The origin of the name ‘Araka’ is doubtful. One version comes from the pea plant (arakas), and according to a tradition preserved by the Russian monk Barsky, the name of the monastery comes from the word ‘ierakas’, i.e. hawk.
The main part of the monastery is one-aisled with a dome. Outside, the roof is formed in the shape of a cross. The dome is covered by a separate roof, unlike other churches in the Troodos mountain range. From the inscription underneath the fresco of Saint Keramidos, we are informed that the church was decorated with frescoes at the expense of Leontios tou Afthenti in December 1192. In the 14th century, the painter Leontios painted the Virgin Mary in the blind arch above the northern entrance of the church and the outer side of the original western wall. In the 17th century various saints were painted on the outer side of the northern wall.
The most famous icons of the church are those of Christ and the Virgin Mary Arakiotissa, which were attributed to Theodoros Apsevdis and are dated at the end of the 12th century.