Last modified: 2020-05-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Pano Lefkara - Image by Tomislav Šipek , 23 November 2019
The municipality of Pano Lefkara (1,&00 inhabitants in 2001) is located 40 km west of Larnaca.
Archaeological remains date the town to some thousands of years before Christ, but the earliest written mention of it occurs in the writings of the Cypriot saint Neophytos, who was born here in 1134.
Between 1191 and 1570, Lefkara was under Frankish domination. In 1308 the town became the involuntary home of the Order of the Knights Templar for three years. The Order had tried to escape from the island after causing trouble for the authorities, and were exiled to Lefkara as a result.
In 1507 the Turks who overran Cyprus killed most of Lefkara's population. A mosque was erected not far from the church, and it still stands. Fortunately, the church, which dates from 1341, survived the conquest.
Tradition says Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, brought the Holy Cross to the Cypriot village of Toghni in 306. After it was stolen in the early fourteenth century, a monk named Gabriel found it many years later, and he built the church in Lefkara.
[Gerald Ring. Catholic Near East Magazine, Spring 1987]
Ivan Sache, 24 November 2011
The flag of Pano Lefkara (photo) is white with the municipal emblem in the center.
The emblem features the two traditional sources of income in Lefkara, lace and silver.
The tradition of embroidery in Lefkara goes centuries back and this type of embroidery is known all around the world as lefkaritiko. According to local tradition, its history begins in the years 1191-1571, when some of the noble ladies of the west taught the women of Lefkara the fine art of embroidery. According to the same source, in 1481, Leonardo Da Vinci visited Lefkara and took one of these embroideries for the Duomo in Milan. A similar embroidery was given as gift to the Duomo on 19 October 1986, for the celebration of its 600 years.
The period between the late 19th and early 20th century is of particular importance to Lefkara, since it signifies the beginning of the financial growth of the town. The townsmen discovered that the embroideries that up to that point the women made only for the dowry of their daughters and for embellishing their homes could become an important source of profit. A handful of daring young men started traveling to foreign lands with nothing but a suitcase. A suitcase filled with the famous laces and the artful embroideries that the women of Lefkara designed with craft and skill for centuries. These young men traveled first to Alexandria and then to Smyrna and to Constantinople, to the thriving Greek communities. Then, they visited the countries of central Europe.
In the centuries that have passed, the women of Lefkara managed to evolve their skills in embroidery and give their creations a more local character via inspired designs.
The trade of embroidery gave a significant boost to the evolution of the craft. As the demand was rapidly growing, more and more women started engaging in the art of embroidery which now becomes an important source of money to the family. It also contributes to the financial independence of women who now have their own money. The women of Lefkara no longer need to work in other houses in order to financially help their family. Nor do they need to work in farms since the income they gain from their embroideries is more than satisfactory. Now, they can stay at home, work on their designs, prepare food and carry out their role as mothers and ladies of their house.
On the other hand, these daring young men who traveled in Europe without knowing anything but a few words in foreign languages and who faced the difficulties that travels of that time posed, not only managed to survive to these foreign lands but many of them also became wealthy. Staying abroad for years, they are affected by foreign culture and when they return to their homeland they bring with them not only industrial products but new ideas as well. Realizing the value of a proper education they send, and still do, their children to study in top schools abroad in order to complete their academic education. Generally speaking, embroidery-traders became bearers of culture and positively affected the social life of the town for centuries.
Surely, the trading of embroidery had negative aspects as well. It gave the people of Lefkara the opportunity to see life abroad and it cannot be considered unrelated to the mass immigration that took place in the periods 1920-30 and1946-60.
The lefkaritiko embroidery is believed to have reached, as work of art, its peak of perfection in the 1920-1930s when, according to specialists, it could have been listed among the best handiwork of the world. And this is not an unjustified distinction since, from October 2010, it has been included in UNESCO's list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Da vinci's visit to Cyprus, Cyprus Postal Services released on 15 June 1981 a commemorative issue composed of three stamps, designed by A. Tassos. One of them features "a Lefkara lace with the Catheral of Milan in the background".
"From the southern seaboard of Cicilia may be seen to the south the beautiful island of Cyprus which was the realm of the goddess Venus, and many there have been who, impelled by her loveliness, have had their ships and rigging broken upon the rocks that lie among the seething waves. Here the beauty of some pleasant hills invites the wandering mariners to take there ease among its flowery verdure, where the zephyrs continually come and go, filling with sweet odours the island and the encompassing sea...".
This note is found in the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). In the same page there is also a ground plan, a front view and a description of the structure of a temple of Aphrodite. Although there does not exist any historical evidence for the visit of Leonardo in Cyprus, the description given in that note about the beauties of the island, allows us to presume that Leonardo has indeed visited Cyprus. This presumption is enforced by sources according to which the visit took place in 1481 (500 years ago) during the reign of Katherine Cornaro, queen of Cyprus, who entertained the famous painter. It is said that Leonardo was so much impressed by the Lefkara laces that he took with him one which he offered to be used on the Altar of the Cathedral of Milan.
[Cyprus Postal Service]
According to the dating of a collection of silverware from Lefkara, silversmithing in Lefkara possible dates back to the early 18th century. This opinion is further reinforced by the entries in the "Kontikas' (Codex) of the Church of the Holy Cross, which mentions, among others, the manufacturing of a silver vigil lamp in the mid-18th century (1742). Moreover, the Russian monk Vasily Barsky who visited Cyprus and Lefkara in 1743, tells us that the Holy Cross of the Church of Lefkara is coated with silver. It is possible that the silver coating was added in Lefkara. The issue's notice is the follwoing.
In the 19th century, we learn from a testimony of Christoforos Ioannidis that his father, Giannis Kolokasidis or Karaolas, a known goldsmith from town, settled in Lefkara around the middle of the 19th century. There he married and started a family but died prematurely, when his children were still young. His son, Tofis, decided to continue the tradition and at the age of 12 went to Nicosia, apprenticed for 4-5 years to his uncle Pavlis Karaolas and then returned to Lefkara where he opened his own workshop and collaborated with Nikolas and Giorkoullis, two other Lefkarian goldsmiths. Together they manufactured "Scaleta" necklaces, mirmidia (chains), spligkes, finiatota earrings, bracelets and buckles (poukles) for female clothing. In order to sell their creations, they went to the nearby villages and touted their products.
Around 1900, there are two goldsmiths in Lefkara, Nikolas, who took the last name Chrysochos and Michalis of Kyprianos. Nikolas made silver spoons, bridal jewellery and crosses whereas Michalis specialized in the manufacturing of a silver "cadena" which he sold per cubit.
However, silversmithing in Lefkara truly flourished in the decades 1960, 1970 and 1980 thanks to the famous silversmiths of the Kalopaidis family. A landmark year is 1931, when Stylianos Kalopaidis, the head of the family, settled with his family in Lefkara, following the Cyprus revolt. Stylianos had apprenticed in Nicosia, under Giorkos Eleftheriadis, also known as Tsielepigiorkis, who had come to Cyprus from Smyrna and was a famous goldsmith. He opened his own workshop in Lefkara and took his children as well as young people from other villages as apprentices.
They manufactured all kinds of Ecclesiastical items such as vigil lamps, icons, cherubim sets, crosses, gospels and of course kapnistomerrecha (censers) in various shapes (pear, apple, "mappouro"- pine, striped).
Three of the five children of Stylianos Kalopaidis, Giorkos, Andreas and Nikos stayed in the profession. His first two sons moved to Larnaca and thanks to their art, became famous in the entire Cyprus. Nikos stayed in Lefkara and imparted his knowledge on his apprentices who, nowadays, are craftsmen with their own workshops and proudly acknowledge Nikos Kalopaidis as their mentor.
[Municipal website - Extract from an extensive article of Dimitris X. Savvas in the magazine Lefkara]
Tomislav Šipek & Ivan Sache, 24 November 2019