The neolithic archaeological remains found in the village are proof that the region around Lefkara has been inhabited uninterruptedly for centuries. The first historical testimony of the existence of Lefkara with its present-day name is found in the testament of Agios Neophytos born in 1134 in Lefkara, when Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire . The house (single room) where Saint Neophyte met with his wife-to-be the night before he run away to become a monk, still stands. It is now part of a newer house build around it.
During the Frankish and Venetian period (1193-1483) Lefkara became a fiefdom. In the 16th century, it was the largest town in Cyprus . From 1571 to 1878 Cyprus was occupied by the Turks. Most of the houses conserved today in the village date from this period. The bare stone facades with few openings, the layout of rooms around an inner courtyard and the flat rammed-earth roofs are typical elements of the architecture of Lefkara up until the late 19th century.
Groups of women sit in the narrow village streets working on their fine embroidery, as they have for centuries. The village is also known for its skilled silversmiths who produce fine filigree work. A folklore museum in the town shows visitors what life was like on Cyprus a hundred years ago. The museum is sited in a restored house and exhibits the furniture and effects of a wealthy family of the time, local costumes and examples of the Lefkara lacework.
During the Byzantine period, the art of weaving costly textiles for the European market, mainly for ecclesiastical use, was centered in Constantinople, but after the Crusades, when Cyprus became the only secular Latin stronghold in the eastern Mediterranean and a prosperous commercial centre, the tradition of making valuable textiles and embroideries became concentrated here.
It is, however, the period of the Venetian occupation (1489-1571) which produced “Lefkaritika”, a form of needlework which has survived and flourished in almost its original form to present day. This type of drawn and counted thread embroidery, famous all over the world, is made by the women of the village of Lefkara in the province of Larnaca in
the south of the island. This village, high in the mountains, was the principal summer resort of wealthy Venetians and the local women would have come into close daily contact with their household linen. With their keen minds, sharp eyes and deft fingers, soon copied and adapted the old Italian white needlework containing the cut-work, drawn thread-work and reticella fillings common in Italy, particularly in Venice, during the 16th century. The local name of cut-work in the Lefkara embroidery is “tayiadha”, derived from the Italian “punto-tagliato”. The Lefkara women created beautiful bodices, dresses and cloaks, not only in linen but also in silk.
According to legand, Leonardo da Vinci visited the village in 1481, he was very impressed by the Lefkara women's adaptation of Venetian embroidery and purchased a lace cloth , a piece of work with the “potamos” design, for the main altar of the Duomo di Milano. This design is known today as the “Leonardo da Vinci design”.
Since that time the men of the village have travelled extensively throughout Greece , Europe and even America selling the work. Their wives, meanwhile, were left at home to embroider and to look after the family. Now, modern communication makes the men's lives much easier, they no longer have to travel the world to sell their wares. Furthermore, tourism has created an obvious outlet for selling Lefkara lace.
Much later, the Venetians brought it home, and set up their own lace industry on the island of Burano . In 1889 a local lace school was opened, and Lefkara lace regained much of its ancient renown.
In 1878 Cyprus became a British colony. Starting in the early 20th century, the commercialization of local embroidery sold all over Europe by the people of Lefkara produced major changes. Dating from this period are the two-storey houses with shops on their ground floors, sloping ceramic tiled roofs and long balconies running the length of main facades rendered in colored plaster and decorated with period neoclassical architectural elements.
World War II interrupted the sale of embroidery, which never recovered. The shortage of work forced inhabitants to emigrate en mass and in the 1930s half of the village of Lefkara was uninhabited.
In 1960 Cyprus finally gained independence. Tourism
began to develop in the 1970s, saving Lefkara from economic ruin. With traditional architecture still intact, embroidery and artisan silverwork attracted tourists.
Numerous traditional houses have been listed by the Department of Antiquities and the Department of Housing and Urbanism. Since 1978, several buildings have been rehabilitated by the Department of Antiquities, most particularly the Patsalos residence, which has been converted into a local museum of embroidery and traditional silverwork.
At Pano Lefkara there is the church of the Holy Cross, with beautiful 18th century and 13th century artifacts. A religious fair takes place September 13-14, in celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Many events are organised round the year at Lefkara village. In August is organised a festival which presents mostly folkloric dances, songs, traditional food and some participation of renowned singers and actors. It is also, of course, an opportunity to present the excellent Lefkara embroideries and silverware, traditional crafts for which Lefkara has been known for many years. For a week the village of Lefkara will be host to personalities, tourists and Cypriot visitors, offering them traditional hospitality.
The taverns of the village are always opened ready to offer the traditional Ttava and Cyprus meze.
The two hotels and the traditional houses, renovated but always in the traditional architecture rhythm, are ready to offer a place for relax to visitors.
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