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:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.