This charming medieval monastery dedicated to ”Our Lady of the Forests” stands in the middle of the village of Agia Napa surrounded by a high wall. Both the village and the monastery take their name from the ancient Greek word for wooded valley “Napa”– a reference to the morphology of the area in the past. Built like a medieval castle around 1500 AD, Agia Napa Monastery is the best known landmark of the village as well of the surrounding area. The monastery is partly built underground and cut into the rock.
The ancient sycamore tree in front of the south gate is believed to be over 600 years old.
The monastery was restored in 1950 and in 1978 it became an Ecumenical Conference Centre serving churches in Cyprus and the Middle East. A new church built in 1994 south west of the monastery is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
This 15th century convent near the village of Lefkara consists of a church, cloisters and other monastic buildings. Besides performing their religious rites, the nuns also paint icons. The convent probably began as a Dominican establishment. The church is the common mix of Byzantine and Gothic styles, with a pointed vault with traverse ribs and side porticos. On the north and south walls are two large paintings of Agios Georgios and Agios Minas dated 1757. Eighteenth century monastic buildings surround the church, with cloisters to the west.
Perched on a rocky peak, Stavrovouni means Mountain of the Cross. According to tradition; it was founded in the 4th century by the mother of Constantine the Great, Agia Eleni, who left a fragment of the Holy Cross at the monastery. The brotherhood is extremely devout, keeping vows as strict as those at Mount Athos in Greece. There is an impressive ceremony and celebrations on September 14th, the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
The Monastery of Agia Varvara (Saint Barbara) at the foot of Stavrovouni Hill is easily accessible. The monks here have a reputation for icon painting. Women are not allowed to visit Stavrovouni Monastery. Men may visit the monastery, but must be decently dressed.
Situated on Cape Gata south east of Akrotiri Salt Lake near Limassol, Agios Nikolaos ton Gaton (St Nicholas of the Cats) is perhaps the first monastery in Cyprus. The present church probably dates to the late 14th century. Abandoned in the late 16th century, it was re-occupied by Orthodox nuns in the early 1980s. According to tradition, the monastery was founded in the 4th century by Agia Eleni, mother of Constantine the Great, who left a piece of wood from the Holy Cross there. At the time, the island was experiencing a severe drought, forcing many people to leave the island. Snakes multiplied and life in Cyprus, particularly at Akrotiri peninsula was unbearable. According to the medieval historian Stephen Lusignan, after Agia Eleni’s departure, Constantine the Great sent governor Kalokeros to Cyprus who brought thousands of cats to the island to exterminate the snakes.
The history of the Monastery of Agios Neofytos is well documented in the autobiography of its founder, the Cypriot hermit and writer Neofytos. It is built in what used to be a secluded location at the head of a picturesque valley, about 10 kilometres northwest of Paphos. The “Egkleistra”, an enclosure carved out of the mountain by the hermit at the end of the 12th century, contains some of the finest Byzantine frescoes from the 12th to the15th centuries.
The later monastery church contains some of the best examples of post – Byzantine icons of the 16th century, and there is also a very interesting ecclesiastical museum.
Set in beautiful surroundings, the Monastery of Chrysorrogiatissa in Paphos is dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate’. It was established in 1152 by monk Ignatios who, according to popular belief, found a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary off the shore of Paphos which had been thrown into the sea in Asia Minor during the iconoclastic controversy and carried by the waves to Cyprus.
The monastery was restored at the end of the 18th century. The single – aisle church, built on the foundations of an older one, has fine frescoes above the three entrances. The monastery is home to a collection of important icons and treasures. An impressive religious ceremony is held on August 15th. The monastery’s old winery produces some of the finest Cypriot wine.
This abandoned monastery is situated on the banks of the Xeros River. The 16th century central nave is in good condition and considered one of the most important buildings of the Venetian period. In 1977 it received the Europe Nostra Award for the restoration and conservation work carried out on it.
The Monastery of Kykkos, the richest and most lavish of the monasteries of Cyprus, is found in the region of Marathasa. It is situated on a mountain peak, at an altitude of 1318 metres northwest of Troodos. Dedicated to Panagia, it possesses one of three icons attributed to Agios Loukas the Evangelist. The icon, covered in silver gilt, is in a shrine made of tortoise shell and mother – of – pearl that stands in front of the iconostasis.
The monastery was founded sometime between the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the12th century, during the reign of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118 AD). Unfortunately the monastery burned down several times and nothing remains of the original structure. Blessed with divine grace, Cypriot hermit Isaiah miraculously cured the emperor’s daughter of an incurable illness. As a reward, he asked for the icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) kept at the imperial palace at Constantinople. Though grieved at the prospect of losing his precious treasure, the emperor sent it to Cyprus with fitting honours together with funds to pay for the construction of a monastery where the sacred relic would be kept. At the hermit’s request, the emperor’s representative in Cyprus Manuel Vutomites also endowed the monastery with three villages. As the gift was later confirmed by imperial charter, the monastery is considered to have been established by imperial decree.
The first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, served here as a novice. At his own wish he was buried on the summit of Throni, 3 kilometres west of the monastery, and not far from his native village of Panayia. The monastery produces zivania and a variety of other alcoholic drinks and holds religious fairs on September 8th (Birth of the Virgin) and August 15th (Dormition of the Virgin).
Machairas Monastery is situated at an altitude of 870 metres on the slopes of Mount Kionia. It houses the miraculous icon of Panagia of Machairas, attributed to Agios Loukas the Evangelist. Legend has it that an unknown hermit brought the icon to Cyprus secretly from Asia Minor during the years of iconoclasm (8th – 9th centuries). The hermit resorted to a cave on the mountains of Machairas. After his death, the holy icon remained there until around 1145, when blessed with divine grace the hermits Neofytos and Ignatios, reached the spot and found the cave covered with bushes. In order to approach the icon, the two hermits had to cut the bushes with the help of a knife given to them by divine hand. Thus, the icon took the name ‘Machairiotissa’ (the word machairi in Greek means knife) or, more simply, of Machaira. The monastery of the same name was later built on the same spot and is one of three Cyprus monasteries that remain under the Patriarch’s jurisdiction.
The brotherhood is extremely devout, keeping vows as strict as those of Mount Athos in Greece.
The monastery of Machaira has big estates of land acquired from donations dating the Frankish era. The three nave church of the monastery was built between 1892 and 1900. Its wood carved iconostasis was made in 1919 -1921 by Georgios Kyriakou from the village of Chrysida. The bell tower is 19 metres high and dates to 1900.Thanks to a grant by the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation, the monastery’s vestry in the basement was renovated. It consists of the monks’ original cells as well as stables and storage areas. It also houses a collection of old books and manuscripts, icons and other religious artefacts.
The exact date of the foundation of Trooditissa Monastery, situated on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, is not known. But according to local tradition, the monastery was established immediately after the iconoclastic era. As with other monasteries, it was preceded by a hermit who resorted there during the years of the iconoclasm. Nothing remains of the monastery of the Middle Byzantine period or the period of Frankish rule. The oldest reference to the Monastery of Trooditissa is found in a copy of a 14th century deed.
The church, as well as the monastic buildings, belong to a later period and can be dated to the end of the 18th or the 19th and 20th centuries. The heirlooms saved in the church of the monastery also belong to these later periods. The present church, dating to 1731, contains valuable icons including a precious icon of Panagia covered with silver-gilt from Asia Minor.
Monk Damaskinos (1939 – 1942) and his success or Abbot Pangkratios, revived the monastery after it came close to being dissolved in the 19th century. A large religious fair is held every year on the grounds of the monastery on August 15th, day of the Dormition of Panagia. Prayers to the holy icon of Panagia give hope to childless couples wishing to have children.
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