The Church of Ayios Lazaros was built in the 9th century to house the reputed tomb of Lazarus, the man raised from the dead by Jesus. Recontructed in the 17th century, it is the most impressive sight in the town of Larnaca.
History of Ayios Lazaros
According to Greek Orthodox tradition, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the saint came to Cyprus and was later consecrated bishop of Kition by Paul and Barnabas.
Lazarus' tomb was located here in Larnaca, but during the Arab raids the place of his burial was forgotten. The remains of Lazarus were rediscovered in 890, and briefly enshrined here before they were sent to Constantinople by Emperor Leo VI in 901.
The Church of Ayios Lazaros was built in the late 9th century to house the tomb of the saint. The tomb eventually formed part of a catacomb for general use, as evidenced by several sarcophagi.
(Note: An alternate legend has Lazarus and his sister Mary landing in Provence, and having his tomb at the Cathédrale St-Lazare in Autun, France. This was destroyed in the Revolution, but a church in Marseilles still claims to have his head.)
In 1589, the church had to be ransomed from the conquering Turks. From then until 1758, it was shared by Orthodox and Latin Catholic Christians. The church was reconstructed in the 17th century. A fire broke out in 1970, leaving the interior greatly damaged and more austere than most Cypriot churches.
What to See at Ayios Lazaros
The Church of Ayios Lazaros has an open porch, from which steps descend into the church. The porch bears traces of Greek, Latin and French inscriptions.
The graceful bell tower was erected during the 17th century reconstruction, and was one of very few permitted by the Turks before 1857. The Turks generally prohibited such structures out of fear that church bells could be used to summon a rebellion.
The impressive interior consists of a central nave, two aisles, and three domes that are now boarded in. The roof is supported by twin piers topped by reused Byzantine capitals. In one of the piers, steps ascend to an elaborate, 300-year-old Rococo pulpit. The fine iconostasis (18th century) was damaged by the 1970 fire and has been partly restored.
Notable icons in the church include one of the Virgin and Child on the north pier at the crossing; one of St. George and the Dragon (1717); a silver filigree icon of the Raising of Lazarus (1659); and another icon of the Raising of Lazarus in which a spectator is holding his nose at the stench. The silver icon is carried in procession in the presence of the Bishop of Kition on Easter Saturday.
The crypt, accessed by steps that descend from near the southern side of the apse, contains Lazarus' empty marble sarcophagus.
Quick Facts on Ayios Lazaros
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|Coordinates:||34.911515° N, 33.634826° E|
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- Bernard McDonagh and Ian Robertson, Blue Guide Cyprus, 4th ed. (1998), 63-64.
- Marc Dubin, The Rough Guide to Cyprus, 5th ed. (2005), 98-99.
- Photos of Ayios Lazaros - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Ayios Lazaros, Larnaca
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