St. Catherine Catholic Church, Limassol

The Franciscans came to Limassol during the thirteenth century. However, they were forced to leave about the middle of the fifteenth century, due to adverse circumstances. But they usually visited the community when it was possible. In 1850, they were at last able to set up permanent residence here. In 1872 they started to build the present church of St Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr of the forth centry. It was inaugurated on 25th on November, 1879, on the same day that the church celebrate the feast of St Catherine. At the inauguration were present a large number of people, the British Governor of Cyprus, the Consuls of France, Italy, Austria and Greece, together with some Orthodox clergymen.

The architect, Fr Francesco da Monghidoro, a Franciscan from Bologna, followed the artistic trend of that period throughout Europe for similar buildings. He used a baroque style in the interior, opting for an eclectic design on the exterior facade which is dominated by the portico. The building has three aisles with a single apse and it is twenty metres long by fifteen metres wide.

In 1979, the church was restored. In the preliminary survey, it was found out that the plaster Basroque works had no structural connection with the main stone walls. The many "stuccos" decorations showed signs of great decay. So it was only natural to remove them altogether. During the ensuing restoration work, under the expertise and able management of the Franciscan Architect Fr Alberto Prodomo, six new windows were opened in the side walls.

Two renowned artists from Romania, Michel and Gabriel Morosan, internationally known for their Neo-Byzantine paintings, were commissioned to paint a Byzantine fresco on the apse behind the altar. This fresco is about eighty square metres. The saints painted are, from left to right St Francis of Assisi, St Michael the Archangel, the Virgin Mary, St Gabriel, St Catherine, St Anthony of Padua, St Epihpaneus, the Apostles Peter and Andrew, St Hilarion and St Barnabas, a native of Cyprus.

On the wall of the left aisle, Morosan painted the Nativity of Jesus, and on the right aisle the Baptism of Christ.

The inauguration of the restored church took place on November 15th, 1981, with a solemn liturgy presided over by Fr Ignazio Mancini, the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, and in the presence of the Othodox Bishop of Limassol - His Excellency Chrysanthos.

The new altar, with a stone table mounted on a capital from a medieval column, was consecrated on September 18th, 1982 by the Apostolic Vicar for the Latins in Syria - His Excellency Monsignor Domenico Picchi.

The recent reshaping of the Limassol sea front by the civic authorities has put the Church of St Catherine in a prominent position. The church invites the faithful and tourists to spend a quiet moment of prayer and of silence.