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History and Art in Cyprus
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Gwynneth der Partog
Byzantine and Medieval Cyprus:  a Guide to the Monuments (Nicosia:  Interworld Publications, 1995.  281p.)

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The author is of British origin, married to an Armenian Cypriot.  Der Partog has a regular column in the Cyprus newspapers and writes on various aspects of history and popular culture of Cyprus.  She is also a television program critic.

Here she provides a clear and readable historical summary of Cyprus and the interchange of peoples and cultural influences, then reviews numerous sites and buildings.  She provides directions to the sites, transportation guidance, cultural helps and a summary about each site.  Most of these are churches or chapels, and der Partog has done a masterful job of collecting the history and descriptions of these often out-of-the-way buildings, cemeteries and related structures.

I bought this volume in 2001 in Nicosia, Cyprus, and read it at leisure over 2001-2004.  It was helpful as reference for areas we had studied or visited over the period of our residence there.  The author includes many photos and drawings of buildings and sites.  Many of these she took or drew herself.  Others are provided by other Cypriot photographers or artists.

The murals on the walls and ceilings of many of these churches constitute a record of the styles and interests of the centuries of worshippers and inhabitants of these Cypriot villages.  Der Partog's conversational style explains how the buildings were built and remodeled or restored at various stages in their history.

She includes good information about the various cultures that have been involved, such as the Crusader Latins and the Armenians or the dominant Eastern Orthodox.  The stories of the chapels and churches are rich with the life and culture of the local people in each region.

One aspect I enjoyed was the physical description of the gardens or village surrounds of each building, and information of the festivals or practices in each area.  This provides a view of the local life of the Cypriot people, often isolated by geography and political or military factors in their history.

The author successfully meets her stated goal to "bridge the gap between detailed specialist publications and general guides."  A student of cultural history, as well as the casual traveller will gain benefit and insight into the rich cultural heritage and artistic culture of the Cypriot peoples.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Across the Greek Divide
[review] Cyprus: Notes and Perceptions
[blog] Cyprus, Afrodite and the Holy Virgin
[review] Italians, Etruscans and Greeks:  Genetics and Ethnicity
[review] Prayer for Cyprus
[Review] Side Trip through the Roman Empire

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Initial reading notes written 12 November 2004, expanded 12 February 2009
Final review posted on Amazon and OJTR 19 February 2009
Last edited 6 October 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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