20 Feb Choirokitia Commandery
Not far from the Neolithic settlement, in a lush valley, are the remains of Choirokitia commandery.
Along with Kolossi and Gastria Castle, these physical remains are all that survive of the Knights Hospitaller’s presence on Cyprus. The Battle of Choirokitia against the Mamluks, in which the Hospitallers took part, took place near here in 1426.
Choirokitia commandery lies 7km inland from the south coast and the sea is visible from the hills that enclose the valley. Only the vault and part of the commandery wall remains. If the wall is in situ and not used as a modern field boundary, then the commandery keep is comparable in size to that at Kolossi. Like Kolossi, it was a centre of agricultural production, rather than having a military role. Looking at the fertile land surrounding, it’s easy to understand why this area has been continuously inhabited since prehistory.
Just 140m from the commandery is Panagia tou Kampou Church, which the Hospitallers used. Local legend has it that the Hospitallers had a tunnel linking the commandery to the church. No evidence has been found to support this. The church itself dates to Byzantine times and excavations surrounding the church confirm the existence of other structures and burials. Damaged in the Arab raids, it was restored in the Frankish period. The photographs of the exterior above date to March 2010, before the excavations took place. Above one door there appears to be the outline of an upside-down coat of arms. If this is so, then it may be an example of abatement.
Inside the church are some lovely wall paintings, including that of St. Hillarion. Luckily the Department of Antiquities took preventative action to preserve them in the form of a drainage project. This church is a little gem worth visiting: It’s remained literally in the field, unlike St. Martin’s, London! With the Neolithic site and traditional village nearby there’s plenty to do.