Church of Cyprus
Εκκλησία της Κύπρου
Coat of arms of the Church of Cyprus.
ClassificationEastern Orthodox Church
OrientationGreek Orthodox Church
TheologyEastern Orthodox theology
PolityEpiscopal polity
PrimateGeorge III
LanguageKoine Greek
HeadquartersNicosia, Cyprus
FounderBarnabas the Apostle
OriginRoman Cyprus
IndependenceAD 431 or earlier
RecognitionAD 431 (Council of Ephesus), AD 478 (Roman Empire)
Official Edit this at Wikidata
St. John's Cathedral, Nicosia

The Church of Cyprus (Greek: Ἐκκλησία τῆς Κύπρου, romanizedEkklisia tis Kyprou) is one of the autocephalous Greek Orthodox churches that together with other Eastern Orthodox churches form the communion of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox autocephalous churches; it claims to have always been independent, although it may have been subject to the Church of Antioch before its autocephaly was recognized in 431 at the Council of Ephesus. The bishop of the ancient capital, Salamis (renamed Constantia by Emperor Constantius II) was constituted metropolitan by Emperor Zeno, with the title archbishop.


Roman era

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul of Tarsus converted the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, (Acts 13:6–12), making him the first Christian ruler, and thus Cyprus became the first country ruled by a Christian leader.[2][3][4]

A few of the bishops who helped spread Christianity on the island were Lazarus, the Bishop of Kition, Herakleidios the Bishop of Tamasos, Avxivios the Bishop of Soloi, and Theodotos the Bishop of Kyrenia.

Towards the end of the fourth century, Christianity had spread throughout the island. During this time St. Epiphanius was Archbishop. His seat was in Salamis, which was renamed Constantia.

Byzantine era

This independent (autocephalous) position by ancient custom was recognized against the claims of the Patriarch of Antioch, at the Council of Ephesus (431); it is unclear if the Church of Cyprus has always been independent or if it was once part of the Church of Antioch. When the Patriarch of Antioch claimed the Church of Cyprus was under its jurisdiction, the Cypriot clergy denounced this before the Council of Ephesus. The Council ratified the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus by a resolution which conditionally states: "If, as it is asserted in memorials and orally by the religious men who have come before the Council - it has not been a continuous ancient custom for the bishop of Antioch to hold ordinations in Cyprus, - the prelates of Cyprus shall enjoy, free from molestation and violence, their right to perform by themselves the ordination of bishops [for their island]". After the Council of Ephesus, the Church of Antioch never claimed that Cyprus was under its jurisdiction.[5] This independence was also recognized by an edict of Emperor Zeno.

In 478, Archbishop Anthemios of Cyprus claimed that following a vision he had found the grave of Barnabas and his relics. On the saint's chest rested a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. The church was thus able to send a cogent argument on its own behalf to the Emperor: the discovery of the relics of its reputed founder, Barnabas. Zeno confirmed the status of the Church of Cyprus and granted its Archbishop the "three privileges": namely to sign his name in an ink made vermilion by the addition of cinnabar; to wear tyrian purple instead of black robes under his vestments; and to hold an imperial sceptre (i.e. a gilt staff of silver, topped by a gold globus cruciger) instead of the regular episcopal crosier.

Cyprus suffered greatly from Arab invasions in the following centuries, and during the reign of Justinian II the cities of Constantia, Kourion and Paphos were sacked. At the advice of the Emperor, the Archbishop fled to the Dardanelles along with the survivors, and established the city of Nova Justiniana (Greek: Νέα Ιουστινιανή, Néa Iustinianē), named after the Emperor, at Erdek near the city of Cyzicus. In 692 the Quinisext Council reconfirmed the status and privileges of the exiled Archbishop and in 698, when the Arabs were driven out of Cyprus, the Archbishop returned but retained the title of "Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus": a custom that, along with the "three privileges", continues to this day.

Crusader era

Ayia Napa Monastery

After the establishment of the Kingdom of Cyprus, the Catholic kings gradually reduced the number of Orthodox bishops from 14 to 4 and forced those away from their towns. The archbishop was moved from Nicosia to the region of Solia, near Morphou, the bishop of Larnaca was moved to the village of Lefkara etc. Each Orthodox bishop was under the Catholic bishop of the area. The Catholic Church tried on occasion to coax the Orthodox bishops to make concessions on the differences in doctrine and practices between the two churches, sometimes with threats and sometimes using violence and torture, as in the case of the 13 monks at Kantara monastery.[citation needed] Moreover, the properties of many monasteries were confiscated. The persecutions, especially during the Frankish period, did not succeed in uprooting the faith of the Greek Cypriots.

Despite initial frictions, the two churches gradually managed to coexist side by side peacefully. The local Orthodox Christians shared some of the benefits of the economic development of Cyprus and especially Famagusta at the time. The Orthodox cathedral of St George (known as Saint George of the Greeks – today in ruins) is almost as high and monumental as the nearby Catholic cathedral of St Nicholas (a mosque since 1571), and is also an example of an interesting fusion of gothic and Byzantine architecture.

The Franks were succeeded by the Venetians in 1489 without any significant change to the status of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Cypriot independence

In 1950, Makarios III was elected Archbishop. While still Bishop of Kition he had demonstrated strong intellectual and national activity. In 1949 he founded the Apostle Varnavas Seminary, and in 1950 he organised the referendum on the Union (Enosis) between Cyprus and Greece. While archbishop he was the political leader of the EOKA liberation struggle in the years 1955–1959. The British exiled him to the Seychelles because of his activities.

In 1960, Archbishop Makarios III was elected President of the newly established republic of Cyprus. Disagreements of the other three bishops with Makarios led to the 1972–73 Cypriot ecclesiastical coup attempt. Following the dethronement of the Bishops of Paphos, Kitium and Kyrenia for conspiring against Makarios, two new Bishoprics were created: the Bishopric of Limassol which was detached from the Bishopric of Kition, and the Bishopric of Morfou which was detached from the Bishopric of Kyrenia. The coup d'état of 15 July 1974 forced Archbishop Makarios III to leave the island. He returned in December 1974.

Turkish invasion

See also: Aydın Dikmen

The coup d'état was followed by the Turkish invasion of 20 July 1974 which significantly affected the church and its flock: as 35% of Cyprus' territory came under Turkish occupation, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Christians were displaced and those that could not or did not want to leave (20,000 initially) faced oppression. As of May 2001 figures only 421 Greek Orthodox Cypriots and 155 Maronites remain in North Cyprus.

The destruction of Christian monuments was another important consequence.[6] Churches containing Byzantine icons, frescoes and mosaics have been pillaged by antiquities dealers and sold on the black market. One of the most prominent cases of pillage was of the mosaics of Panagia of Kanakaria of the 6th century AD, which were finally returned to the Church of Cyprus, following rulings by federal courts in Indianapolis and Chicago.[7] In Northern Cyprus, there are 514 churches, chapels and monasteries, many of which were converted to mosques, museums or abandoned.[8]

Recent events

On 3 August 1977, Makarios III died and was succeeded by Archbishop Chrysostomos I. In 1979, the new Statutory Charter of the Church of Cyprus was drawn up and approved replacing the old one of 1914.

In old age, Archbishop Chrysostomos suffered from Alzheimer's disease and was unable to carry out his duties for a number of years. In May 2006, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I chaired a broader meeting of church elders which called for Chrysostomos' "honorary removal".

Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Paphos, 65, was elected the new archbishop on 5 November 2006, after a long-running election campaign, becoming Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus.

After the death of Chrysostomos II, the 2022 Cypriot archiepiscopal election was called to choose his successor.[9][10]

Administration and Holy Synod

Archbishop's Palace, Nicosia

The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus is the highest church authority in Cyprus. Its task is to examine and provide solutions on all issues concerning the Church of Cyprus. Head of the Holy Synod and of the Church of Cyprus is Georgios III Papachrysostomou, Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus.

Metropolises and Metropolitans

Dioceses and Bishops

Titular Dioceses and Bishops

The Holy Synod meets regularly in the first week after Easter and in the first fortnight of the months of February and September. It meets in ad hoc sessions when it is deemed necessary or when two of its members put forward a request.

See also: List of archbishops of Cyprus

Religious sites in Cyprus

See also


  1. ^ CNEWA - Orthodox Church of Cyprus
  2. ^ "Cyprus: An Island Rich in Christian Tradition". CNEWA. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  3. ^ "History of Church of Paphos". Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  4. ^ Burkiewicz, Ł. "The beginnings of Christianity in Cyprus. Religious and cultural aspects".
  5. ^ Downey, Glanville (1958). "The Claim of Antioch to Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction over Cyprus". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 102 (3): 224–228. ISSN 0003-049X. JSTOR 985575.
  6. ^ Bachman, Carolyn (2003). "An Introduction to the Issue of Preserving Cultural Heritage". Brown Classical Journal. 15. Archived from the original on 2006-09-11. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  7. ^ Bourloyannis, Christiane; Virginia Morris (January 1992). "Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts, Inc". The American Journal of International Law. 86 (1): 128–133. doi:10.2307/2203143. JSTOR 2203143. S2CID 147162639.
  8. ^ Morris, Chris (2002-01-18). "Shame of Cyprus' looted churches". BBC. Retrieved 2007-01-29.
  9. ^ "Στις 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2022 οι Αρχιεπισκοπικές εκλογές, για πρώτη φορά ψηφοδέλτιο". AlphaNews.Live (in Greek). Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  10. ^ "Archbishop elections on December 18 (Update 3) | Cyprus Mail". Cyprus Mail. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  11. ^ Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 11-11-20


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