By Alix Norman
Most people flirt with their hobbies, be it the part-time philatelist or the weekend bird-watcher, the social rambler or secret knitter. Not so Andreas Philippou, distinguished architect and published author: his passion has encompassed a lifelong undertaking, a desire which has consumed almost every spare moment in the last 40 years. And this week the fruits of his labour are finally available to the public with the launch of his exquisite reference work entitled The Byzantine Architecture of Cyprus.
Having already been presented at the Leventis Municipal Museum in Nicosia, the book launch will take place at Kypriaki Gonia Gallery in Larnaca on November 1, in conjunction with an exhibition of the watercolours which feature in the pages of this comprehensive guide to the churches and monuments of the Byzantine era. A follow up to his earlier book, Byzantine Architecture in the Troodos Mountains, it’s the culmination of many years of work for Philippou, who has poured his heart and soul into the chronicling of his passion.
“My interest and love for sketching, drawing and making watercolours – in tandem with my interest in Byzantine architecture – prompted me to complete and publish in its entirety the material I had gradually collected over the years in my free time,” says the architect, whose tremendous love for the land’s Byzantine monuments is evident on every page. Marking the completion of an effort that began when Philippou was still an architectural student, The Byzantine Architecture of Cyprus is not merely a definitive guide, but also a publication of artistic perfection and a call to arms: an incentive for the preservation of the cultural heritage of the island. The hundreds of drawings contained in the book depict every accessible Byzantine church and monument on the island in great detail, each sketch accompanied by comprehensive textual information.
“I have measured and drawn every church (except two or three) presented in this album,” he says, adding that he has visited some of the buildings on several occasions. “At times it has been an arduous and difficult task,” he admits, “but at the same time it’s been very rewarding. Most of the monuments are situated in beautiful landscapes scattered all over the island in remote places, or in densely populated areas in villages and towns. And, beautiful as they are, they project their beauty onto the Cypriot landscape.”
Perhaps the most challenging part of the project was the chronicling of the Byzantine monuments in the occupied areas, a task to which Philippou dedicated a great deal of time and effort: “My return to the occupied parts of Cyprus after 38 years was beset by mixed feelings,” he recalls. “Going back to my student years, when I first started this endeavour, it had never crossed my mind that one day I would see the plain of the Mesaoria, the mountains of the Pentadaktylos and the Karpas Peninsula spreading out in front of me. But,” he continues, “making our way back to Nicosia, we had a feeling of satisfaction at having achieved as far as possible our aim.”
Printed by Nicolaou Printers under the supervision of graphic designer George Simonis, the book launch will be inaugurated by the bishop Chrysostomos of Kiti. At the same time, the exhibition of the relevant illustrations will be available for public viewing before, the artist hopes, being moved to a purpose built room in his home village of Galata. “Mr Philippou was born in Galata,” says Nikiforos Orphanos, who has spent many years coordinating and supervising his colleague’s undertaking. “It’s a wonderful community that boasts many Byzantine churches, and the aim is to utilise the proceeds from the sale of the book to build a room in the village in which to house the exhibition.”
It’s rare indeed, to find someone so dedicated to a venture that the rewards of 40 years’ work will be ploughed back into the community. But Andreas Philippou’s passion for Byzantine architecture, coupled with his love of Cyprus, clearly runs deep: “It is my firm belief that these monuments display the most significant and unpretentious examples of the history of Cypriot architecture,” he writes in the conclusion of the book, referring to this “priceless treasure, which belongs not only to Cyprus but to the world as a whole.”
The Byzantine Architecture of Cyprus
Presentation of book by Andreas Philippou, and accompanying exhibition of watercolours, will take place at the Kyrpiaki Gonia Gallery on November 1. The book is sold at all good bookshops at a cost of €70, and will be available at the launch with a 20% discount. For further information, contact the Kypriaki Gonia Gallery on 24 621109 or visit www.gallerykypriakigonia.com.cy