Nikitari, a village of the Nicosia District, is built 47 km southwest of the capital city. A landmark of Nikitari is the Byzantine Church of Asinou, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monument.
Strolling around Nikitari, apart from the cultural treasure of the 12th century, the Church of Panagia Asinou, one can discover the church of Ioannis Prodromos, houses of popular architecture and recreation facilities such as restaurants.
Historical Background – Naming
According to the Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia which cites Stephanos Vyzantios, an ancient housing named “Assinni” used to be built at the location where Nikitari stands today. Karouzis explains that settlers from Assinni of Peloponnisos settled in the housing during the 11th century. The existence of the housing is confirmed by old maps on which the name “Assinni” is marked. What is noteworthy is that the church of Panagia bears the same toponym.
According to de Mas Latri, during the Frankish occupation the village was one of the fiefs which belonged to the royal Marathasa. Similarly to Mas Latri, both Florios Voustronios and G. Jeffery referred to Nikitari. On the one hand, Florios Voustronios, as Karouzis preserves, mentions the names of two feudal leaders of the 15th century, these being Ioannis Flatros and Ioannis Siglitikos, while G. Jeffery notes the following about the village: “Chittari”. This reference is explained by the Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia as a Frankish alteration of the naming Nikitari. The village, however, is also noted using other similar names such as “Nichitari”. It must be mentioned that the local language idiom today refers to the village as “Nitzitarin”.
As far as tradition is concerned, the naming of the village is linked to Saint Nikitas, the bishop of Chytres. In particular, the village owes its name to a diminutive of the aforementioned naming. There is in fact another village which links its naming to the bishop of Chytres, the presently occupied village of Nikitas, which is located in Morphou.
Population – Growth
Nikitari is one of the villages of Cyprus which resist urbanisation. The community maintains, according to Karouzis, “a relevantly significant number of residents”. In particular, as this is presented in the table below, Nikitari numbered 426 residents in 2001. The residents appear to remain in the village although many of them work in the capital city and have to go to and fro Nikitari on a daily basis.
The economic growth of the area which is linked to the amounts of visitors of the church of Panagia, as well as the promotion of projects by the Community Council have contributed in the village’s efforts to maintain its population. Presented below is the populating course of the village.
In Nikitari, cultivated pieces of land mingle with expanses of wild vegetation, this way creating a majestic image. On the one side stretch grain, citrus fruit, vegetable, vine and olive tree cultivations, while on the other side stretch expanses of land covered with wild vegetation such as brushwood. What is worth mentioning is that a big part of the village is covered by the state forest “Adelfoi”.
Located in Nikitari, as it was mentioned before, are two churches. One is dedicated to Panagia Asinou and the second one to Ioannis Prodromos. The church of Panagia Asinou is a single-aisled stony church, the interior walls of which are covered by exquisite hagiographies dated back to the period between the 12th and 15th century. The church of Ioannis Prodromos is adorned by portable icons, which according to Gunnis, are dated back to the 17th century
Courtesy of the Nikitari Community Council