Cyprus. Journey to ancient monasteries.

Orthodox Cyprus.

The history of the island is inextricably linked to Christianity, which was brought to Cyprus in the first century AD by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas. In A.D. 45 they made their first journey, during which they passed through the whole of Cyprus, preaching the new religion. During this journey the apostle Paul converted Lucius Sergius Paul, the ruler of Cyprus, to Christianity. Thus Cyprus became the first province of the Roman Empire to be ruled by a Christian. According to tradition, the holy apostles met Lazarus of the Fourth Day in Cyprus and ordained him as a bishop. Today in Larnaca you can visit the temple built at the end of the IX century on the site of the first church, which was attended by St. Lazarus himself.

Today Orthodox Cyprus offers very interesting itineraries, both for excursions and for pilgrimages.

One of the oldest monasteries of Cyprus is Stavrovouni Monastery founded by St. Helen in 327. St. Helena gave a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified to the monastery. Today Stavrovuni Monastery is a monastery with very strict rules. Women are not allowed in at all, and rumor has it that men are only allowed in for two hours. Though they say that 10 to 15 years ago, women were allowed into the monastery on Sundays.

Stavrovouni Monastery, Cyprus

Another monastery associated with the name of St. Helena is St. Nicholas. Now it is better known as the monastery of St. Nicholas the Catcher. According to legend, about a thousand cats were brought to the island from Egypt by order of St. Helena to fight the snakes that bred in abundance. And not far from the place where St. Helen came ashore, was founded the monastery of St. Nicholas, whose brethren took care of cats.

Tourists are almost 100% guaranteed a trip to Kikkos, a favorite destination for all pilgrims and tourists. As far as I know, almost all the guides and travel agencies offer a trip to this monastery.

Today there are 500 churches and 9 monasteries in the small Orthodox Cyprus. Many churches and monasteries in Cyprus are a legacy of ancient Byzantium. The real gems of this heritage are the paintings of the temples of Troodos which are under the protection of UNESCO.

Panagia Forviotissa Temple near Nikitari. Cyprus

If you can not visit the mountains of Troodos, you can take a bus or a service-taxi to Nicosia, where next to the Archbishop’s Palace stands the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The Cathedral is young by Cypriot standards. It was built “only” in 1662, its walls are decorated with rich paintings on biblical themes. In excellent preservation is the magnificent carved iconostasis. The murals in the church of St. John the Evangelist are stunning. The impression is intensified by the contrast between the modest appearance of the Cathedral and the magnificent frescoes.

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No sooner had I written that there would never be pictures of the painted churches of Troodos, which are under the protection of UNESCO, than fate decided otherwise, giving me an opportunity, which I could not but take advantage of. When we arrived at the village of Pedoulas, where the Church of the Archangel Michael is located, we found that the church was open and the vigilant guard had gone somewhere. The sign with the drawn camera crossed with a bold red line, of course, I did not notice. This is how the pictures of the murals of the first temple appeared.

At the monastery of John Lampadistis, located in the village of Kalopanayotis, there has been a “change of power. The elderly grandfather monk, who was vigilant about enforcing the rules, has retired, and the young brethren who came to replace him are far from as zealous. And shots of the second church on the world heritage list appeared. With any luck, that is. I won’t get ahead of myself, though.

Monastery of John Lampadistis in the village of Kalopanayiotis. Cyprus

But since my conscience gnawed at me as a thief, then I can say in my defense that I took pictures without flash, the good camera allows to shoot in relative darkness, and the unique murals of temples were not damaged.

Please do not take pictures with flash in churches, because even the weakest flash burns out the colors of the ancient frescoes, as the brightest sunlight.

It may be argued that smoking candles are more harmful to ancient paintings than flashes. One thing is certain to me, there is no need to multiply the harm. By the way, the quality wax candles used in Cyprus practically do not smoke. Strong soot is produced by paraffin churches.

In the Troodos Mountains there are 10 preserved churches, which in 1985 were included by UNESCO in the list of world heritage. Moreover, all the Cypriot World Heritage sites (the ancient Paphos, the 10 churches of Troodos and the Neolithic settlement in Choirokoitia) have been given the status of enhanced protection, which means that the sites are of great importance to all humanity because of their exceptional cultural and historical value. No armed conflict can justify the use of these sites for military purposes or to shield military sites.

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The Painted Churches of Troodos are perfectly preserved examples of rural churches, the appearance of which strongly resembles that of a barn.

Their exterior appearance is in stark contrast to the interior decoration. The stunning paintings of the churches date back to the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods.

Church of Panagia Poditou in Galata, Cyprus

We can tell about the churches can be long, but best of all, if finances allow, go on a tour with a good guide who will explain in detail and show the most interesting points.

Alternatively, you can rent a car and go to the mountains by yourself. But then there is a risk that the ancient churches will not reveal their secrets to you. And the figures depicted in the frescoes will remain unidentified.

Despite the fact that the churches are located in one region, to examine them in one day is still not possible. The mountains are mountains, and what on the map seems to be located in the spirit of each other, in practice may not be.

If you have a desire to see a church in the mountains, and it is closed, do not despair. In that case just

  • call by the phone number written on a piece of paper pinned to the front door,
  • if the paper is blown away by the wind, go to the nearest café* and ask for the keys to the church, uttering the cryptic words: “clizú apo tin eklisúa” (key to the church).

Usually such a scheme works. After a couple of minutes, the ancient Keeper of the Key appears and opens the doors of the Temple. If the church is outside the village, such as Stavros Agiasmati in Platanistas or Panagia Poditu in Galata, the key and the Keeper must be taken to the temple in their car and then both return to their original position in the kafenia.

Key to the church of Stavros Agiasmati near the village of Platanistassa, Cyprus

* – A kafenya is not just a cafe that men visit. It’s more than that. You don’t pop in here for five minutes, have a cup of coffee, and then run on. Kafenia is a kind of a men’s club, where people come for a serious and long time: to socialize, discuss the world’s problems, and just to gossip.

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Today there are 500 churches and 9 monasteries in little Orthodox Cyprus, and I quote you. In fact, today there are 31 active monasteries in the southern part of the island

Cyprus. Journey to ancient monasteries.

In the middle of the inner courtyard is the “Fountain House” made of precious marble, where the founder of the monastery was buried, in addition, many tourists are attracted by the chapel located there. Special attention should be paid to the veil given to Jesus Christ by St. Veronica when he went to Golgotha.

Holy Virgin of Kykkos Monastery

Kikkos was founded in 1100. The buildings that we can see today were built in the 18th century. In the late 80s of the 20th century the monastery was renovated, when the frescoes and magnificent mosaics appeared.

Stavrovuni Monastery

The monastery of Stavrovouni (Greek: Mount of the Cross) was founded in the 4th century AD by the mother of Emperor Constantine, Helen, who stopped there to wait out a storm. According to tradition, an angel appeared to her and commanded her to found a monastery there and to leave there a piece of the Life-Giving Cross she had found in Jerusalem.

The Monastery of Trooditissa

Trooditiss is very much loved by the people. Despite the fact that it is a closed monastery, everyone who is brought to these places by faith and reverence will be welcome here – the monks know many amazing stories about the miraculous spiritual power and are happy to share them.

Maheras Monastery

In the eastern part of Troodos at an altitude of about 900 meters above sea level there is another monastery – Maheras. Its founders were two monks who found a knife-guarded icon of the Holy Virgin in a cave.

Monastery of St. George Alamanu

The Monastery of Saint George Alamanou is one of the largest convents of women in Cyprus, near Limassol. Founded in the 12th century by German hermit monks from the Palestinian land as a men’s monastery, it got its name after one of the monks of the monastery, who became famous as an ascetic and miracle worker.

The Monastery of St. Neophytes the Hermit

The St. Neophytos Zatvornik Monastery dates back to 1159, when the monk Neophytos chose a picturesque place near Pafos and built a cave in the rock with his hands and lived in it for many years until his death.

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Chrysoroyatissa Monastery

At the western end of the Troodos range is the monastery of Chrysoroyatissa, founded in 1152. This holy monastery is famous for its own wine production. It is believed that small doses of wine produced in the monastery can cure the believer of many ailments.

Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, is rightly regarded as the rarest corner of Orthodoxy in its value. Currently, on the territory of a total area of 9250 square kilometers there are 12 active Orthodox monasteries (altogether there are more than thirty, the history of many of them has its roots in the ancient Byzantine era) and more than 500 churches.

Most Cypriots are Orthodox Christians, and only a small fraction are Muslims. Moreover, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus has a significant influence on the political and social aspects of Cypriot life and plays a significant role in the development of the country. It is probably for this reason that the most fertile lands of the island are in the possession of the Church.

Christianity began to play an invaluable role in the history of Cyprus from the first century A.D., when the apostles Paul and Barnabas traveled all over the island, bringing the new religion to the masses. The ruler of Cyprus at that time, Lucius Sergius Paul, adopted Christianity and was baptized by the Apostle Paul himself, and Cyprus became the first province of the Roman Empire whose ruler was a Christian. Every year thousands of tourists seek to visit Cyprus, seeing this island not primarily as a resort, but as the Holy Land, and come here in order to see its ancient shrines with their own eyes.

Local monasteries have preserved frescoes and icons dating back to the first centuries of Christianity. Apostles Paul, Philip, Mark, Barnabas, Saint John the Merciful, Saint Lazarus the Fourth Birthday, Saint Helen and Saint Thekla – many city streets and even small villages are named after these saints, who are especially honored by the locals.

Above all the monasteries of the island stands the monastery of Trooditissa, where for many centuries they have been carefully following the ancient traditions and keeping the spiritual relics with a thousand-year history. The two main holy sites of Trooditissa are the main icon of the monastery of the Evangelist Luke, framed in a silver frame with angels, and the “Girdle of the Virgin Mary”. Both relics are said to have miraculous powers that can give a child to those who cannot conceive.

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One of the oldest monasteries in Cyprus, Stavrovouni, was founded in 327 by St. Helen. She was waiting out a storm when an angel appeared to her and commanded her to found a monastery in the same place. At the command of the angel Helena gave the monastery a fragment of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, a relic that is still kept in the monastery. St. Helena also owes its appearance to the monastery of St. Nicholas.

Cypriot monasteries have preserved frescoes and icons dating back to the first centuries of Christianity. In honor of the Apostles Paul, Philip, Mark, Barnabas, Saint John the Merciful, Saint Lazarus the Fourth-born and Equal Apostles Helen and Theokla, many city streets and even small villages are named especially respected by the local residents.

The monastery of John Lampadistis, in the village of Kalopanayiotis, has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The ancient monastery has been rebuilt many times over the centuries, but in the main church there are still beautiful frescoes from the 13th century. The monastery has long been inactive, but still remains a remarkable spiritual and cultural monument of Cyprus.

Near the Monastery of St. Neophytes the Hermit, which stands near Paphos, preserved caves, in which he lived Neophytes. However, the monastery itself is very unusual and worth seeing, because it was cut out in the rocks. Here one can still see frescos painted during her lifetime, in the 12th century, and some of its rooms are so compact that one can reach up to the frescos decorating the ceiling. There is a museum at the monastery that holds ancient icons and manuscripts.

Today the Orthodox Church still plays a significant role in the life of Cyprus and has a marked influence on its politics, economy and development in general. For this reason, the ancient monasteries are carefully guarded and are a beautiful sight for every lover of history and spirituality. Particularly noteworthy are: the Monastery of St. George Alamanos, the Monastery of Chrysoroyatissa, the Monastery of Panagia tou Sinti, the Monastery of St. Cross and many others.

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