to the traveller Heyman (1700-9) it was the ruins scattered around
ancient Citium until the 18th century and used by the inhabitants
as building material together with the frequent discovery of ancient
sarcophagi in the greater area of Saint Lazarus reminiscent of a necropolis,
which gave the town the name "Larnaka" (= sarcophagus).
The Archimandrite Kyprianos (1788) on the other hand, associates the
name of the town with the shrine of Saint Lazarus, a renowned place
of worship similar to that of the Monastery of Stavrobouni for pilgrims
on their way to the Holy Land. Whatever the origins of the name, it
is most probable that it became well-known at around that period due
to the growing importance of its seashore.
Besides the port fortified with the construction of the Frankish castle,
the first building visible by anyone in an approaching ship was the
Church of Saint Lazarus with its towering domes. On the shore there
were small shops, warehouses, the market, and the customs office.
The main church was found in the center of the precinct surrounded
by cells. It has been concluded after studying a plethora of accounts
that the eastern ground floor wing of the cells were rented to tradesmen,
travellers and craftsmen who arrived there by sea. There is an account
which also places one of the three fountains of Scala in the precinct
of the church. Latin monks at the Monastery of Terra Santa in Larnaka
extended equal hospitality to the Catholic visitors arriving in the
town. The surrounding area of the monastery is described as barren
with fields and olive trees. It was in this way that the church of
Saint Lazarus became a hub of activity around which the harbour communities
developed promoted particularly by the arrival of European consulates
in the town. Following the independence of the Ionian state in Greece
many of their inhabitants arrived in Larnaka and set up a consulate.
It is possible that some of these Ionians were buried in the cemetery
of Saint Lazarus as evidenced by the inscriptions found on some tombstones
on the southern wall of the church.
AND HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS
church in the center of the town dedicated to its patron Saint Lazarus,
constitutes an important center of ecclesiastical worship in the town
of Larnaka. The location of the church until as recently as the last
century was on the seafront, hence its association with Larnaka since
it was the first significant building visible by anyone approaching
the harbour. This is confirmed not only by the accounts of travellers
but also by medieval portolanos and maps of Cyprus.
The present state of the church is the result of much restoration
and reconstruction. There are no known accounts referring to the building
of the first church. Limited excavations in the precinct and the interior
of the church have uncovered cist graves and marble sarcophagi verifying
the numerous accounts which record their existence and confirming
the view that the church was built on the site of an ancient cemetery.
One of these tombs can be found today outside the ecclesiastical museum
of the church while another has the inscription "PHILIOY"
running its length which was seen as evidence supporting the recent
account associating it with the shrine of Saint Lazarus, however according
to the Synaxarium (Constantinople Biographies of Saints, 12th/13th
c.): "it bore in letters of a foreign alphabet (the inscription):
the fourth day Lazarus and friend of Christ". The holy water
and shrine worshipped by the pilgrims until the outbreak of the recent
fire in 1970, were found in the crypt in the spot between the present
altar and the sacristy under which there was an opening from which
incense rose. This has already been recorded by the American missionary
Lorenzo Warriner Pease as early as in the 19th century. According
to an excavation survey it seems that the first church had the shape
of an early three-aisled christian basilica and given its division
of the sacristy into three parts, it could not have been built earlier
than the middle of the 6th century. It must have been destroyed during
the Arab invasions (649-965 AD) and in the area where the tripartite
sanctuary is found today, a smaller church was built. Excavations
have revealed evidence supporting the view that the present day church
is the third church built on the same site where two earlier churches
existed. According to the Synaxarium of Constantinople (Codex Sirmondianus
12th –13th century), the byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise (886-912
AD) sent his delegates to Larnaka to seek out the place where it was
rumoured by local tradition and by an apocryphal Account ("Bible
of Lazarus"), that Saint Lazarus was buried. It was therefore
in this small church in the city of Citium that "the holy relics
of that saint were discovered, hidden underground in a marble shrine".
The holy relics of Saint Lazarus were translated in 898/9 AD (or according
to others in 901 AD) during the "Macedonian Renaissance"
of the arts at which time many other holy relics were also translated
to Constantinople including those of Martha and Maria from Ephesus
and Holy Mandylion (Shroud) from Edessa in Syria. Few years later
"as if by some divine inspiration", he built a splendid
church in Constantinople dedicated to Saint Lazarus where his holy
relics and his skull were placed. From these facts we can only deduce
that the church of Larnaka in its present-day form must have been
built at the beginning of the 10th century and subsidised by imperial
funds, as manifested by the complicated architectural design of the
domed church. Moreover, it is not by chance that the portraying of
Saint Lazarus as the Bishop of Citium was becoming widespread as can
be seen in a fresco (2nd half of the 10th century) in the Church of
Stephana (Tokali Kilisse II) in Cappadocia and in a chalice belonging
to the byzantine Emperor Romanos II (959-963 AD) kept today at the
Treasury of the Basilica of St. Marc in Venice. Similar representations
of Lazarus as a bishop can also be found in other more recent churches
associated with Constantinople, like the Church of Spasa-Nereditsy
(12th century) near Novgorod, as well as in churches of Cyprus as
the Church of the Holy Apostles in Pera Chorio Nisou, at the Church
of Asinou, Church of Arakas in Lagoudera, etc.
Scarce information has survived pertaining to the period between the
time that the church was built and the invasion of Cyprus by the Ottomans
(1570). According to some sources it is very likely that the church
was converted into a Catholic monastery during the period of Frankish
rule on the island. Some travellers mention the existence of Minoritan
monks. Subsequent accounts (Pietro della Valle) which suggest that
the Church of Saint Lazarus was converted after the Frankish rule
into a Uniate Armenian monastery, do not seem to be well founded.
These accounts, it would seem, originate from the references of some
travellers (Pietro della Valle, 1625) to Armenian inscriptions on
the exterior wall of the church which are hardly visible. In an extract
of his work, the traveller Martini (1760-7) makes extensive reference
to this subject reporting that these were simply inscriptions made
by Armenian pilgrims.
During Frankish rule the southern portico was added featuring gothic
architectural elements, (cylindrical pillars with inherent capitals,
gothic gargoyles and crossed vaults), decorated with a pair of lions
near the entrance of the church. Architectural remains (base of arches)
attest to the fact that the west side of the portico continued westwards.
The southern entrance through the portico was converted into the main
entrance leading to the church which exists to this day, which in
effect made the western byzantine entrance obsolete. The northern
entrance of the church leading to the aisle from which the Catholics
conducted their services, was also decorated with a monumental facade
consisting of marble-faced walls and four dentils. On the northern
door lintel, encased in medal, is found the crossed coat of arms of
the Kingdom of Jerusalem attesting once more to the period of frankish
rule on the island. Stone steps have been uncovered on the south-western
roof of the church leading to the upper level and to the belfry.
As confirmed by the accounts of travellers such as Hans Bernhard von
Eptingen, Allesandro Rinuccini, Pierre Barbatre and an unknown Frenchman,
it seems that the Church of Saint Lazarus had suffered extensive damage,
or had remained derelict between the period August 1460 to August
1480. The accounts refer to a "ruined church" which had
been converted by the atheists into a pig sty. Unfortunately sources
of information referring to the desertion of the church are far too
fragmented to provide a clear pictur and allow mere assumptions for
the destruction of the church to be made, such as the 1425 Mammelouk
invasions in Larnaka. In early 1484 we have the first account (F.
Suriano) describing the reopening of the church. This does not necessarily
mean that it underwent renovation work and restoration of the damages
as Saint Lazarus is being mentioned again as ruined church by some
travellers in later years (Huen, 1487, G. Affagart, 1534).
Furthermore, it appears that in the courtyard of the church there
must have been an extensive cemetery in which Catholics were also
buried between the period 1480 and 1838 as already described by Pierre
Barbatre and L.W. Pease. The existence of a (burial) chapel adjoining
to northern aisle of the church is described in traveller’ s accounts
(Dapper) and is confirmed by a copper engraving (1878).
The Ottomans converted the church into a muslim place of worship (mosque)
(1570) and in 1589 they sold the Church of Saint Lazarus to the "Greeks"
i.e. to the Orthodox against 3.000 Turkish silver coins. It seems
that there had been an agreement between the Catholic and the Orthodox
clergy of Larnaka, possibly for financial support to facilitate the
renovation of the church, which allowed the Catholics to use the northern
aisle of the church for two days in the year: the saint day of Saint
Magdalene and the Saturday of Saint Lazarus. This agreement which
was lasted until the year 1784, was based on an earlier custom dating
back to the Venetian rule during which the Orthodox would conduct
their service in the central aisle and the Catholics in the side aisle,
as described by the travellers Martin von Baumgarten (1508) and Jacques
Le Saige (1518).
The engraved ancient base of the latin altar of this period has survived
together with a marble pulpit bearing the Venetian coat of arms which
was later converted into a marble font and can be found today on display
in the museum of the church. This source of information predominantly
based on the 16th century writings of travellers, also mentions the
existence of a pit found at a depth of four levels below the sanctuary
which was worshipped as the tomb of Saint Lazarus and which became
a pilgrimage site for the whole of the Orthodox world, a fact that
is attested to by the Russian and Slav votive offerings of that period.
The Church of Saint Lazarus is finally given the description of a
monastery in 18th and 19th century documents. As a monastery it must
have adopted mainly the nature of a place of pilgrimage, while at
the same time as an 16th century account (Cotovicus) informs us, a
significant amount of its income originated from the rental of its
cells which surrounded the church (in 1867 there were approximately
20) to sailors and merchants arriving at the harbour.
On the exterior side of the southern wall of the church there are
tombstones inlayed as early as in the 19th century which were transferred
from the site of a cemetery, while above the south entrance of the
church there is a secular stone bas-relief of a double-headed eagle
and a fish.
This appearance of the Church of Saint Lazarus with the courtyard
surrounding the church and the monumental eastern gateway, survived
until the early 20th century as shown in photographs taken during