Fifteen kilometres below the summit of Mount Olympus in the Troodos mountains in Southern Cyprus lies the picturesque village of Omodos. One main, wide cobbled street runs down the centre towards the Monastery of the Holy Cross. Flanked by mulberry trees the road is lined with cafes and restaurants and it is a popular mountain village to visit.
Beautifully preserved, the village is so attractive. Narrow cobbled lanes wind up and down steep slopes and surround the monastery. Lace, local wines, brandy and commandaria, as well as mountain fruit products are all for sale in little shops fronting the lanes.
The Monastery is a cool haven of arched cloisters, but no doors to be seen… all were open, letting the breeze through.
Finally, inside the church, I found my doors….
In a Greek Orthodox church, the altar (sanctuary) is situated in the eastern part of the church, regardless of its shape.
The iconostasis is a screen or wall between the nave and the sanctuary, which is covered with icons. There will normally be three doors, one in the middle and one on either side. The central one is traditionally called the Beautiful Gate and is only used by the clergy. There are times when this gate is closed during the service and a curtain is drawn.
The doors on either side are called the Deacons’ Doors or Angel Doors as they often have depicted on them the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. These doors are used by deacons and servers to enter the sanctuary.
Typically, to the right of the Beautiful Gate (as viewed from the nave) is the icon of Christ, then the icon of St John the Baptist; to the left the icon of the Theotokos, always shown holding Christ; and then the icon of the saint to whom the church is dedicated (i.e., the patron). There are often other icons on the iconostasis but these vary from church to church. The curtain is also drawn and opened at various points in the service.