Sunday, 27 October 2013

Larnaca and the (Second) Tomb of Lazarus

Saturday 5 October 2013. I've skipped a day from the previous entry about Bethlehem. This is because the ship stayed in Ashdod for a second day. But so did we. We didn't venture off the ship at all.

Today however we have arrived in Cyprus. To Larnaca to be more precise. We haven't booked a tour but instead get tickets for the shuttle bus which drops us off at one end of the seafront and we stroll the length of the Promenade until we come to a wooden jetty.

This is a far simpler affair than you might expect to find at a British seaside town. The resort, at this time of day anyway, is a lot quieter than Blackpool... In fact we hardly saw anyone stirring, we had the Promenade pretty much to ourselves apart from a few other people who had also come off the ship.

Even the beach was deserted at this early hour - around 10:00am. Tourists staying in Larnaca were perhaps sleeping off the after effects of last night's binge?

A little further on from the jetty was a small fortress. Living near the coast was both good and bad in medieval and earlier times. Good because there were fish to be caught in the sea and bad because there were plenty of pirates looking for easy loot, whether that was goods or slaves.

Also by the jetty was a marble statue of the Venetian winged lion, looking very smug and pleased with itself. It had been a gift from Venice, just one of an incredible string of invading rulers since Biblical times (by legend, Larnaca was established by the great grandson of Noah) and Venice itself was chucked out by the Ottomans in 1571.

We left the seafront and saw a very grand church, which we made our way to. This church is another Biblical link - the second tomb of St Lazarus, the friend of Jesus who had been raised from the dead.

His first tomb was at Bethany on the Mount of Olives. He lived a further thirty years and was made Bishop here by St Peter. Another tradition is that he and his sisters were set adrift in a boat and ended up in Marseilles in France, which also claims a site as his tomb.

Yet another version is that after the remains of the saint were taken from Cyprus to Constantinople, they were taken by the Crusaders to Marseilles.

The taking of the saint's relics to Constantinople is a long accepted version. However in 1970 a fire caused much damage and during renovations human remains were found in a marble sarcophagus under the altar. Obviously not all the saint's remains had been removed.

The iconostasis - the framework for the row of icon paintings on either side of the altar - was carved between 1773 and 1782 and gold plated twenty years later. The church is rich in its icons and paintings, including one of St George on horseback, slaying the dragon. A large chandelier hangs over the main body of the church.

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