Friday, May 1, 2009

Kykkos Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Kykkos is perhaps best known for being one of three monasteries that holds an icon painted by the Apostle Luke, supposedly a true portrait of the Virgin Mary herself.  St. Luke was a talented painter and his representation of the Holy Mother and Child is the version copied all over the world.  The icon is held at the heart of the monastery, covered by a layer of gilded silver.  Legend tells that it is forbidden to gaze upon the icon - those who do will suffer a curse.  To the right of the icon is a withered arm, depicted in bronze, of one disrespectful sod who dared light a cigarette from a candle lit in her honour.  I must say however, that the icon itself does emit a sense of power.  I'm not sure how to put this and not sound religious, but it certainly stunned me into silence.  The whole church was exceedingly beautiful. An image of the covered icon, here.  

Meanwhile the rest of this post may bore all except my mother, who shares the same love of mosaics as I do. The gorgeous tones in the flesh! The depiction of animals! The exquisite detail! All that gold tiling as it catches the sun... 

This monastery happens to also have a brilliant museum attached to safely store its many treasures (although the website isn't so great).  A Gospel book cover with a gold plated silver cover bearing enameled representations of stories from the Gospels (from a Russian workshop circa 1818) was utterly beautiful. The 13th century representations of Jesus and Mary were also very special in that these faces were not so full of the sadness of later centuries.  It seems with the passing of time Christian faces have grown heavier, more sorrowful.