Stavrovouni Monastery

Pyrga, Cyprus

According to religious tradition, the Stavrovouni Monastery was founded by St. Helena, the mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, the Great. According to the 15th century Cypriot chronicler Leontios Makhairas, Helena was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when she discovered the three crosses on which Jesus and the two thieves had been crucified. She had them excavated and wanted to bring them to Constantinople, but she is said to have left one of these crosses in Cyprus during an involuntary visit caused by shipwreck. Religious history says that the Holy Cross was transferred by a miracle to the peak of a high hill overnight and that a strong light was coming out of that peak. After several unsuccessful attempts to get the Holy Cross out of that mountain, Helena decided to leave a piece there, and built a small chapel to accompany it.

The most significant relic that Stavrovouni Monastery possesses is a piece of the Holy Cross, left at the monastery by Saint Helena. There are references from several sources which report that the Holy Cross used to stand unsupported in the air. Nowadays, the remaining piece of the Cross is kept within a large silver cross. Other relics left at the monastery by Helena include the Cross of the Good Thief, a nail, and, according to some sayings, a part of the rope that had tied Jesus to on the Cross.

Stavrovouni is the earliest documented monastery on the island. The oldest written reference dates from the Byzantine period, and it proves that Stavrovouni had been an important religious centre since the 4th century. The relevant information can be found in the memoirs of a Russian traveler, Abbot Daniel, who stayed on Cyprus in 1106.

After its foundation, Stavrovouni was occupied by Orthodox monks living according to the rule of St. Basil. In its long history, Stavrovouni went through times of great poverty and hardship caused by the numerous invasions by foreigners on the island. Nowadays, the Holy Cross is no longer there and nobody knows what has happened to it. The walls, the church, the iconostasis, and the monks' cells in Stavrovouni were almost completely destroyed during a great fire in 1888. The only relic which has been preserved down to the present is a silver cross in which a minute piece of the Holy Cross is inserted, the only major reliquary which is still kept in Stavrovouni.

The records suggest that the monastery had no monks for a period roughly between the 16th and the 19th century, a time when the Turks ruled the island. At the end of the 19th century, Elder Dionysios A' moved to Stavrovouni from Mount Athos in 1889, and the monastery was in operation again. In 1890, three more Cypriot monks, again from Mount Athos, joined him at Stavrovouni: Fathers Varnavas - who would become the next Abbot - and his two brothers Kallinikos and Gregorios.

Following that, new monks entered the monastery, which grew larger and larger and soon became the spiritual center of the island of Cyprus. The monastery grew so much during the mid-19th century that it was in a position where it was able to send monks to other ruined monasteries to help their growth. For example, monks from Stavrovouni moved to the Monastery of Panagia Trooditissa in Troodos and created a new group. Other monks attempted to move to, and revive, the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Mesa Potamos in Limassol.

Recently, the monastery underwent a complete renovation. Its small church was restored again with frescoes and icons by the well-known painter, Fr. Kallinikos, a monk from Stavrovouni.

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Stavrovouni, Pyrga, Cyprus
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Details

Founded: 327-329 AD
Category: Religious sites in Cyprus

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Kasia i Michal M (2 months ago)
It was closed when we came. It is worth to go just for a beautiful view. Remember to take some cat food. There are lots sweet little cats to feed.
P P (3 months ago)
Really nice place to visit, pray and see the view from the mountain hill. Both Larnaca and Limassol can be seen from above. Near and outside the monastery there is also a small beautiful church that everyone can enter. Outside the church there is a trail that is about 5km and leads below the mountain However it is not circuit and a little tiring if someone chooses to walk it from the below starting point. Many people visit the monastery because of its offers.
Nomadic Julien (6 months ago)
Amazing view from the top. The monastery wasn’t fully opened and we couldn’t take photos from the monastery itself. I highly recommend going to the top but maybe no needed to enter the facility unless you’re really interested
hola her (8 months ago)
Great views from a high mountain, however only men are allowed to visit the monastery. A lot of friendly cats on the parking for consolation.
Андрей Слабинский * Andre Slabinsky (10 months ago)
Breathtaking dramatic views on the surrounding mountains. Monastery on the top of the hill was founded by Saint Helena - Emperor Constantine's mother - in around 327–329 AD while her travelling back from Holy Land to Constantinople. Wikipedia states it is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. 25 monks lead a simple life, eating what they grow by themselves. Only men an boys are allowed on the top, where monks live, only within a particular periods - before 10-30 AM and from 3 to 5 PM The remaining piece of the Christ’s Holy Cross is kept and exposed to public within a large, silver, cross-shaped reliquary.
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