The Church of Cyprus

Note on the history of the Church of Cyprus

The institution with the longest and greatest continuous history in Cyprus is the autocephalous (self-governing) Church of Cyprus.  For twenty centuries it has ministered to the needs of the native community not only in the realms of religious, cultural and family life, but also, from time to time, it has regulated and influenced the political and economic needs of the country.

The Church of Cyprus has belonged to the Byzantine world since before 330 A.D., the year of the inauguration of Constantinople, and after 1191, the year Cyprus was conquered by the Crusaders, and also following 1453, when New Rome ceased to exist. Prior to 330, the Byzantine world spread its roots through the ancient Greek-Roman world and in Judea (itself for centuries part of the Byzantine world). Following 1191 the Church of Cyprus belonged to the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire in all respects, even after the schism of 1260. Then from 1453 onwards, the Church of Cyprus remained Byzantine, and in 1571 joined the “Royal family of the Romans”, the “Byzantium after Byzantium”. The Byzantine period, the time of Byzantine realities, exceeds the chronological limits of the empire, and the period 330-1191 is itself quite relative, due to the fact that it refers solely to the political history of Cyprus, and not to its deeper historical culture, its society and character.

The Byzantine era is divided into three phases (a) the Early Byzantine, which spans from 330 to 699, the year the archbishop of Cyprus returned from New Justinianopolis, (b) the Middle Byzantine, from 700 to 965, the year of the definitive cessation of  tax payments to Islam and (c) the Late Byzantine period, from 965 to 1191, ending with the difficult 7 year reign of Isaac Komnenos, which saw the last period of Byzantine sovereignty in Cyprus.

An honest historian is very well aware that History is full of distorted accounts, records of events that never actually took place, conflicting stories and situations that could have resolved differently. He views things critically and graciously without any desire to intervene with Divine Judgment. He is aware that he knows neither what darkness obscures nor the desires of the human heart. If he is a Christian he knows that in essence the Church is not governed by the blind, but by its divine Creator. The Christian historian trusts in providence, confident that even the worst crises of the past always contain within them an eternal promise for a better future.

Benedict (Archimandrite Paul), Twenty studies on the Church of Cyprus (4th-20th cent), Athens, 1996