The history of Cyprus in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages was marked by changes of authority that came along with the respective conquests of the island

The history of Cyprus in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages was marked by
changes of authority that came along with the respective conquests of the island. Yet, one
constant component of social life was Christianity, which, according to the Acts of the
Apostles, started to spread in this region as early as the 1st century. In addition to written
accounts which were composed for the veneration of the saints or the foundation of new
dioceses, information about the religious life on Cyprus during the period of Late
Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages is provided by the archeological evidence of
churches themselves and by their furnishings. Apart from the creation of ecclesiastical
structures within the expanding cities of the 5th and 6th century, some places of
veneration have been specifically extended in order to attract larger numbers of
pilgrims. Thus, this era’s monumental church buildings conceptualized sacred places not
only architecturally, but also created their sacral character with regard to the effect on
the contemporary observer. The socio-historical and political contexts and functions of
the orientation towards the Holy as it appears in the sources need to be examined as far
as possible. For instance, the discovery of the Apostle Barnabas’ relics and their
architectural establishment as a pilgrim destination in the 5th century, a period of
ecclesiastical debates, successfully supported the endeavors of achieving more
autonomy from the church. Most notably, the temporary conquest of Cyprus by the
Muslims in the 7th century leads to an intensified dispute of the religions and to a
deliberate self-positioning of the Christian population. After the island has been
tentatively reconquered by the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century, the Emperor’s
intensified intervention on ecclesiastical structures can be observed on a political level.
With regard to the material culture, traditional ideas were deliberately taken up; ruined
sacred buildings have been refurbished or reconstructed to some extent at the same
location. However, new places of veneration have been conceptualized architecturally as
well.
On the basis of selected examples, key periods of Cyprus’ ecclesiastical history before the
crusades will be given attention, while the focus will be on the question of the
significance of Christianity and its material manifestation in the region. The
interdisciplinary approach was chosen in order to relate written and archeological
sources adequately to each other.