November 27, 2015

The Tomb and Church of St. Athanasios Pentaschoinitis Brought to Light in Cyprus

Saint Athanasios Pentaschoinitis is an offspring of Cyprus born and raised on the island, in other words he is local saint. He came from the village of Pentaschoinos which no longer exists, but lies in ruins south of the village of Agios Theodoros in Larnaca. There, at this village, are also the ruins of a church dedicated to the Saint which was once beautiful and brilliant when it existed in its days of glory. On the floor of the church there are two holes leading to an underground tunnel, which lead to the sea and were used for escape in times of danger. The floor of the church is covered with the ruins of the church.

The Church of Saint Athanasios Pentaschoinitis was destroyed by an earthquake on Sunday, April 24, 1491. The same is stated by the German traveler Alexander, Duke of Bavaria. The Cypriot historian Neoklis G. Kyriazis states that the village of Pentaschoino disappeared in the eighteenth century. A local tradition maintains that Pentaschoinos was destroyed by pirate raids. According to the medieval Cypriot chronicler Leontios Machairas, Saint Athanasios worked miracles and cured the diseases of the sick. "And Saint Athanasios Pentaskoinitis from Pentaskoinos cures diseases." There is no information nor accurate evidence if the Saint was a martyr or a layman, or if he was a Holy Fool for Christ or a monk or a hermit. However, on murals baring the image of Saint Athanasios Pentaschoinitis in the Monastery of Amasgou in Monagri village, and on murals in the Chapel of Saint Sozomenos in the village of Galata, the Saint is depicted as a deacon. On the other hand, in the village of Agios Theodoros in Larnaca, a portable icon of the Saint which was painted around the mid-nineteenth century, represents him as an unbearded shepherd holding a pastoral staff in his left hand and a Cross in his right hand, just like Saint Mamas and Saint Sozon the Cypriot. However, it is most likely that Saint Athanasios was an ascetic of the region because Saint John Lampadistis was an ascetic near the Marathasa region as well, and nowhere in his biography is it referred that he was a deacon, but on his icons he is painted as a deacon.

The memory of Saint Athanasios Pentaschoinitis was completely forgotten with the Turkish occupation. Recently it was established that he be celebrated in the village of Agios Theodoros of the Larnaca district at the central church dedicated to Saint Theodore on July 10 together with a procession of the holy icon of the Saint.

Not long ago the Church of Saint Athanasios Pentaschoinitis which was built over his grave began to be excavated. This was done at the initiative of the nearby inhabitants of Agios Theodoros, the Metropolis of Kition and the Brotherhood of the Monastery of Stavrovouni by the Antiquities Department of Cyprus led by George Philotheou.

The foundation of the church can be dated to the late 8th and early 9th century. During excavations the marble tomb of the Saint was discovered. After his burial, the marble was covered with plates and sealed at the edges with plaster. The roof over the tomb was invested with three plates from local stucco on which are painted crosses with flattened tips dating from the 7th or 8th century. The walls around were covered with plaster and painted with frescoes. The tomb of the Saint was plundered and full of animal bones.