Although there is no trace here of the first church thought
to have belonged to the early Byzantine period, the second
church is believed to have been constructed in the 5th
century A.D. or early 6th century. The entrance section is
separated into three sections by two rows of columns. The
church was destroyed by the Arab pirates in the 8th century.
A new one on stilts was constructed but as this one was
destroyed as well in an earthquake in 1169, it was
reconstructed as a multi-dome church which could only be
completed in the 14th century. Some sections of the present
church like the capitals of the columns and the apsis belong
to the former buildings. The mosaics in the apsis
representing Christ as a child sitting in Mary’s lap,
surrounded with the archangel and apostles are some of the
most noteworthy examples of early Byzantine art.
Unfortunately, the part which shows child Christ, St.
Mathews, St. James and the archangle is no longer there. The
frescoes of the church and the mural of Mary have been made
at a later date and restored several times.