The Art of Woodcarving in Cyprus
Cyprus is renowned for its woodcarving, divided into two categories: ecclesiastical and secular.
In ancient times, Cyprus was renowned for its beautiful dense forests and woods that covered almost the entire island. Raw material, such as wood and copper, attracted people from many neighboring countries to the island of Cyprus.
Abstraction and symbolism produced decorative patterns which, together with geometric motifs and shapes, have resulted in amazing compositions. The basic symbols in Cyprus woodcarving are birds (symbolizing love), wolves and lions (symbolizing strength), the Holy Cross (symbolizing the cycle of life), and angels (symbolizing guardians and protectors).
Cyprus woodcarving is divided into two categories- ecclesiastical and secular. Ecclesiastical woodcarving flourished at the beginning of the 16th century, when the tall, carved wooden iconostasis was established in the Church of Cyprus. Examples of dynamic expressions in wood can be seen carved on iconostases, despotic thrones, pulpits, candelabras, church stools, doors, windows and other church furnishings.
Secular woodcarving is divided into two subcategories – urban and folkloric or rural. The category of urban woodcarving includes all types of wooden furniture used by people in the towns, such as wardrobes, tables and chairs.
The main characteristic of folkloric or rural woodcarving is its effortless way of expression and lack of proportions and simplicity. Examples of this type of woodcarving are on chests, beds, chairs, shelves, wardrobes, mirrors, etc.
The carvings on these objects vary according to the owner’s social status and place of origin as regards their wealth of motifs, as well as the quality of the raw materials used. The basic kinds of timber used are pine, walnut and cypress.