The Church of Saint Lazarus is named for New Testament figure Lazarus of Bethany, the subject of a miracle recounted in the Gospel of John,in which Jesus raises him from the dead. According to Orthodox tradition, sometime after the Resurrection of Christ, Lazarus was forced to flee Judea because of rumoured plots on his life and came to Cyprus. There he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first Bishop of Kittim (present-day Larnaca). He is said to have lived for thirty more years and on his death was buried there for the second and last time. The Church of Ayios Lazaros was built over the reputed (second) tomb of Lazarus.
Tradition says that the place of Lazarus’ tomb was lost during the period of Arab rule beginning in 649. In 890, a tomb was found in Larnaca bearing the inscription “Lazarus the friend of Christ”. Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium had Lazarus’ remains transferred to Constantinople in 898. The transfer was apostrophized by Arethas, Bishop of Caesarea, and is commemorated by the Orthodox Church each year on October 17.
In recompense to Larnaca, Emperor Leo had the Church of St. Lazarus erected over Lazarus’ tomb in the late 9th to early 10th centuries. It is one of three Byzantine churches, which have survived in Cyprus; the other two are the Church of the Apostle Barnabas near Salamis, and the church that was built in the walkway leading from the Epiphanios to the font. The relics were later stolen from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and transferred to France as part of the spoils of war.