Located in its own square in the town center, the magnificent stone Church of Saint Lazarus in Larnaca is an incredible example of Byzantine architecture in Cyprus and lies over the tomb of the saint. Built by Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in the 9th century, the church was restored in the 17th century. The Baroque-style church is worth the trip solely for the beautifully carved wood and gold iconostasis.
The Church of Saint Lazarus is named after the biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, who Jesus is believed to have raised from the dead. According to Orthodox tradition, sometime after the Resurrection of Christ, Lazarus was forced to flee Judea because of rumored plots on his life and came to Cyprus. Here, he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first Bishop of Kition (present-day Larnaca) and is said to have lived for thirty more years. On his death, Lazarus was buried here for the second and last time. The church was built over the reputed final resting place of Lazarus. The saint is so revered that a procession is held in his honor eight days before Easter. During the procession, the icon of Saint Lazarus is carried through the streets of Larnaca.
Visitors love to gaze up at the church's giant bell tower with its pyramid-shaped peak. Several windows are carved into the tall steeple, revealing the bells inside. The arches and intricate stone features silhouetted against a blue sky are something to behold. Relax in the spacious plaza outside the church and enjoy the Cypriot sunshine. The church is beautiful at night, illuminated in golden light, making for a fantastic backdrop for photographs. Venture inside this historic religious structure to inspect the intriguing relics dotted around the walls. The church was reconstructed in the 17th century and displays many relics from that time period. Admire the silver icon of the raising of Lazarus, which portrays his resurrection. Beneath the altar, you can descend to the eerie basement that allegedly holds the tomb of the saint.
The place of worship is one of the three Byzantium Churches that survived in Cyprus. Over the centuries, the church was put to different uses. Under the rule of the Francs, it became a Roman Catholic church, while under the Ottomans it was a Mosque. The interior and exterior reflect these changes. In 1589, the Ottomans sold it back to the Orthodox church and, for the next 200 years, it was used for both Orthodox and Catholic services. A fire in 1970 damaged much of the interior, including extensive damage to a section of the iconostasis together with the corresponding icons. During the subsequent renovations, human remains were discovered in a marble Sarcophagus under the altar and were identified as part of the Saint's relics. After exploring this magnificent church, visitors can enjoy the Byzantine Museum next door, which exhibits important religious icons, artifacts, and relics.