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:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.