Kirsokava in Kyrenia, North Cyprus.
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Kirsokava (Chrysokava)


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Kirsokava is a promontory that was used in Roman times first as a cemetery and then as a quarry for limestone. Blocks of stone would be taken by sea on boast or rafts to build Kyrenia castle and the harbour, a practice continued by the Byzantines, Crusaders and Venetians. You can still see traces of the ancient route the stones took to the seashore in the bay beyond, a wide sweeping road cut into the rocks. Imagine hauling great blocks of stone across to the sea in the searing heat of the North Cyprus summer, and you can’t help admiring the strength of those Roman workmen!

Roman rocks tombs of Kirsokava, Northern Cyprus

During the late Roman period, early Christians chose to live amongst the Roman tombs and in the quarry. Evidence of their houses can been seen in the walls of the quarry, where round holes indicate the original location of roof timbers. Also, the method of quarrying in North Cyprus meant that groves and slots were left in the limestone, ideal for inserting planks to build a house. In places, you can still see steps carved into the rock, that lead down into just such houses. However, the residents had no reliable water supply, so they built a water cistern to collect rainwater, the remains of which can still be seen today. The quarries are sometimes linked with tunnels, and one link is formed by a semi-natural bridge of sandstone, the original opening much enlarged by the quarry men to get easy access to the stone in the next quarry. These North Cyprus quarries were eventually abandoned, probably because of Arab coastal raids, but possibly because the water supply was not sufficient for the growing population.

The Church of St Mavra, North Cyprus

What makes Kirsokava so unusual is the church of St Mavra, which is built in one of the rock-cut Roman tombs. The church houses some rare 10th century frescoes fragments painted onto the rock face itself, depicting Apostles at the Ascension. In a neighbouring quarry pit, there is also a Byzantine shrine carved into the quarry rock, dating from around 900AD, and other smaller shrines.

Kirsokava and Gold

You can still explore the Roman tombs cut into the quarry and cliffs, but tomb raiders have long since removed any treasures the tombs might have held. In fact, the gold trinkets removed from these North Cyprus Roman tombs may have given the area its name, Chrydokava, from chrysos, meaning gold.