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.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.