Machairas Monastery is situated in the valley of Machairas mountains on the slopes of Kionia and represents one of the most renowned places of worship on the island. One can find here the miraculous icon of Panagia (the Virgin Mary) of Machairas which was created by Agios Loukas (Apostle Luke) the Evangelist.
Legend says that the icon was sneaked into Cyprus by an unknown hermit during the iconoclasm years (between the 8th and 9th centuries AD) and was kept in his cave until he died around 1145. The cave was discovered by hermits Ignatios and Neophytos, blessed with the divine grace. It was concealed by bushes and the hermits reached it by cutting the undergrowth with a knife given to them by divine hand. The icon was therefore given the name “Machairiotissa” from the Greek word for “Knife” – “machairi”. The monastery of Machairas was built on the same location resulting from this discovery.
The monastery was renovated in recent years and today it includes the monk’s original cells in the basement, stables and storage rooms. It also hosts a unique assortment of old books and manuscripts, icons and other religious artifacts.
The brotherhood of the monastery keeps vows as strict as those of Mount Athos in Greece and is extremely devout.
Kykkos monastery is located on a mountain peak, at an altitude of 1318 metres, in the mountainous region of Marathasa valley. It is the wealthiest and most extravagant on the island and is dedicated to Panagia (the Virgin Mary).
The monastery hosts one of three icons attributed to Agios Loukas (Apostle Luke) the Evangelist. The icon is situated in a shrine made of tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl that stands in front of the iconostasis and is covered in silver gilt.
According to the legend, Cypriot hermit Isaiah miraculously healed the daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118 AD) and asked for the icon as a reward. Even though the Emperor did not want to lose possession of the icon and grieved at the prospect, it was send to Cyprus. Moreover, Alexios I Komnenos paid for the construction of a monastery to house the sacred icon. The monastery burned numerous times and today nothing exists of the original building.
The monastery organizes religious fairs on September 8th (Birth of the Virgin) and August 15th (Dormition of the Virgin). Additionally, it produces zivania and other alcoholic drinks and houses a museum. The first president of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III served at Kykkos monastery as a novice.
According to the legend, Stavrovouni monastery was founded in the 4th century by St. Helena, mother of emperor Constantine the Great. It is situated on a rocky peak, 750 meters above sea level and hosts a piece of the Holy Cross.
The monastery abides to strict rules similar to those at Mount Athos in Greece. Indicatively, women are not permitted to enter the premises while men need to be appropriately dressed. The use of camera or video is forbidden.
On the contrary, the monastery of Agia Varvara which is situated on the foothills of Stavrovouni, is accessible to visitors and famous for the iconography created by the monks.
The 13th century monastery is situated in an idyllic location, in the heart of a pine-tree forest and on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountain range. The building dates to 1731 and hosts a rare silver-leaf covered icon of the Virgin Mary which originates from Asia Minor and is believed to give hope to childless couples.
Legend says that the monastery was founded immediately after the iconoclastic era by a hermit who lived there during the period of iconoclasm. The exact date is not known. The church and adjacent buildings belong to a later period towards the end of the 18th or 19th and 20th centuries. The monastery is closed for visits since it is a retreat for prayers, while the church is open to the public.
The monastery is located in unique picturesque surroundings and is dedicated to “Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate”. It was founded in 1152 by monk Ignatios, who according to the legend found a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary off the shore of Pafos (Paphos). The icon drifted to Pafos from Asia Minor where it had been thrown into the sea during the iconoclastic period.
The present building dates back to 1770 and includes a single-aisle church built on the foundations of an older one. The monastery hosts a gold and silver-plated icon of Christ and the Virgin Mary believed to have been created by Apostle Luke the Evangelist as well as unique wall paintings above the three entrances. Additionally, the Icons and Utensil Treasury includes a rare assortment of important icons, religious objects and numerous artifacts.
The monastery celebrates the Dormition of the Mother of God every year on the 15th of August. Celebrations include an impressive religious ceremony while the monastery’s old winery produces some of the island’s best vintage wines.
The Monastery of Timios Prodromos (St. John the Baptist) lies in the Troodos forest area of Mesa Potamos. The Monastery “is located among beautiful mountains covered in dense pine forests, has springs of sweet water near a small river or big deluge”.
This was written during the 18th century by the Russian wanderer Barsky during his travels of the whole island, noting down and describing all the Churches and Monasteries he encountered.
The monastery was founded in the second half of the 12th century by the Cypriot recluse and writer Neophytos and is situated about 9 km north of Pafos (Paphos), in a secluded location at the head of a scenic valley.
A cave called the “Enkleistra” was carved by the hermit and is covered with some unique examples of Byzantine wall paintings which date back from the 12th to the 15th centuries. The monastery includes a notable ecclesiastical museum and its church houses remarkable Post-Byzantine icons of the 16th century.
Iraklidios was the son of a pagan priest and was appointed Bishop of Tamasos by Saints Paul and Barnabas. At the age of 60 he was martyred and buried in the cave in which he preached the Gospel and where he had lived. A church was built over his grave in 400 AD.
The monastery dates back to 1773 and was restored by Archbishop Chrysanthos while it was destroyed and rebuilt many times before that. Today it functions as a convent and the Saint’s relics are kept inside the church.
The convent is located in the village of Vavla and dates back to the 15th century. It includes a church, cloisters and relevant buildings which represent a mixture of Byzantine and Gothic styles with a pointed vault of traverse ribs and side porticos. The north and south walls illustrate large paintings of Agios Georgios and Agios Minas which date back to 1757.
Apart from their religious duties, the nuns produce and trade homemade preserves and herbs. Visitors are required to dress modestly to enter the church.
The monastery was originally founded in the 12th century and is situated 20 km east of Lemesos (Limassol) on the road to Nicosia (Lefkosia). It now functions as a convent while the nuns carry out additional duties such as the production of honey, cultivation of flowers and icon painting.
The monastery of Agios Georgios tou Mavrovouniou (Saint George of the Black Hill) is situated near the village of Troulloi in Larnaka district and is a relatively unknown men’s monastery.
It is dedicated to Saint George while the name “Black Hill” refers to the dark soil and rock of the hills in the area. In ancient times, Cyprus was under the sea and the first tops of land to emerge were the two volcanic masses of Troodos and the Black Hill area.
Even though the time that the monastery was founded is not known, some evidence shows that it dates back to the 11th century. The church was renovated at roughly its present shape in the 18th century and fully restored in 1996, the time at which it became a monastery for men. It hosts a miraculous icon of Saint George which is famous all over the island and has performed numerous miracles since it was found and restored.
Additionally, the monastery represents an ideal choice for study and exploration for amateur and professional geologists as well as a secluded place for prayer and visitors who are spiritually inclined.
Located in its own square in the centre of town, the magnificent stone church of Agios Lazaros is one of the most remarkable examples of Byzantine architecture in Cyprus and lies over the tomb of the saint.
Built by Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in the 9th century, the church was restored in the 17th century. Although the three domes and original bell tower of the church were destroyed in the first years during Ottoman rule, the gold-covered iconostasis has survived to today and is a superb example of baroque woodcarving.
Saint Lazarus came to Cyprus after being resurrected by Jesus. He was ordained as Bishop of Kition by the Apostles Barnabas and Paul and lived in the town for 30 years. His tomb can be seen under the sanctuary.
The saint is so revered that a procession is held in his honour eight days before Easter. During the procession, the icon of Saint Lazarus is carried through the streets of Larnaka (Larnaca).
Located in Kato Pafos (Paphos), the Panagia Chrysopolitissa Church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Early Byzantine basilica on the island. Within the compound is St. Paul's Pillar, where according to tradition, Saint Paul was flogged before the Roman governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.
The church was originally seven-aisled, but was later reduced to five aisles. The floor of the basilica was covered with colourful mosaics, some of which are still preserved.
The 12th century church of Panagia tou Araka is situated in the mountainous area of Pitsilia, between the villages of Lagoudera and Saranti. It represents a unique sample of Byzantine-period churches and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
The church was built during the second half of the 12th century in a period when monastic life in Cyprus flourished and it used to be a monastery church which included a two-storey building to the north, adjacent to the church.
The church depicts a single-aisled domed building with a cross-shaped, steep-pitched roof that extends to form a latticed-woodwork portico. The west wall was demolished, and the church extended during the 18th century.
The wall paintings inside the church are similar to those found in Greece, the Balkans and Russia and were created by Theodoros Apsevdis in the late Commenian style (1192) while those in the apse of the bema are different in technique and were probably painted by another artist before 1190.
Panagia Asinou is a small church dedicated to the Virgin of “Phorbia” and is situated 3 km from the mountainous village of Nikitari, on the east bank of a stream.
The church is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and hosts unique Byzantine wall paintings which date back to the 12th – 17th centuries. In the past, and until the end of the 18th century the premises functioned as a monastery which was built in 1099 by Magistros Nikephoros Ischyrios who then became a monk with the name Nikolaos.
The church includes two parts, the vaulted single-aisled nave and the narthex which was added later, in the second half of the 12th century. The church has a 12th century steep-pitched timber roof which is covered with flat tiles while today there is no indication of the rest of the old building. The murals inside the church demonstrate the art of Constantinople which is thought to be the artist’s birthplace and date back to the 12th – 17th centuries.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this complex used to be a monastery and includes three churches, Ioannis Lambadistis, Agios Irakleidios and a Latin chapel which are all located under a single, vast timber roof. The complex is located in the Troodos valley of Marathasa, off the village of Kalopanayiotis and in present time has undergone extensive reconstruction and restoration at various stages, while the exact foundation date is not known.
The tomb of Agios Ioannis Lambadistis, which dates back to the 12th century is situated under the narrow north-eastern arch and the Saint’s skull lies in a niche. The church was built in 1731 and hosts the icon of Lambadistis which dates to 1543. Additionally, the premises include an interesting Byzantine museum.
The church of Agios Irakleidios includes wall paintings which date back to the 13th and 16th centuries while the church was built in the 11th century. The ancient wooden templon is outstanding, covered with gargoyles, including a heraldic Lusignan lion and Byzantine eagle.
The Latin chapel hosts the most complete collection of Italo-Byzantine paintings in Cyprus.
Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is in the Solea valley 5 km from the village of Kakopetria.
The church derives its name from its pitched timber roof, which was built to offer protection from weather conditions. It is a domed cross-in-square building, once part of a monastery complex and represents the only surviving monastery church of its kind on the island. The church is covered completely by unique wall paintings from the 11th – 17th centuries, including the most important surviving set on the island for this period. It is considered to be one of the most interesting Byzantine churches in Cyprus.
The church dates back to the 11th century and the monastery to the end of the 13th or beginning of the 14th century. It prospered from the Middle Byzantine period of Frankish rule eventually declining during the 18th century and leading to its closure as a monastery by the end of the 19th century.
Panagia Podithou is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is located in the village of Galata. It is one of four painted churches in the village and was built in 1502 by Demetre de Coron and his wife Helen. Demetre was a captain of the barony of Pentageia and was involved in the political disorder of 1461. The church once belonged to a monastery which functioned until the beginning of the 19th century and was abandoned after 1821 when the Archbishop and other notables were murdered after the Greek revolution.
The church is single-aisled with a steep-pitched timber roof. Its three sides are surrounded by a later portico while the roof shelters both the church and portico. It includes mural paintings of the Italo-Byzantine style which appeared in Cyprus in the end of the 15th century.
The early 16th century church of Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (Transformation of the Savior) is situated in the old mountainous village of Palaichori and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
The building is single-aisled with a timber roof, common to Troodos region churches. In the beginning of the 17th century a narthex was added which extends to the west and south sides of the church, under the same timber roof.
The interior is completely painted, with one of the most complete collections of murals of the post-Byzantine period in Cyprus. The unknown artist was influenced by western art and the art of the Palaiologan period.
Panagia tou Moutoulla is a small 13th century chapel and represents one of the earliest examples of its type. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, located in the mountainous region of Moutoulla.
The building includes a steep-pitched timber roof and wall paintings dating to 1280. After the beginning of the 16th century, a narthex was added which extends to the west and north sides of the church and is covered by the timber roof.
The wall paintings can be dated with precision and are the only series of the 13th century (1280) that still exist in Cyprus.
The construction and decoration of the church was done through the donation of Ioannis Moutoullas and his wife Irene who are depicted holding a model of the church. It is believed that it was a private chapel while the village itself has a long tradition for carved wooden basins.
Archangelos Michael church is a small chapel built and decorated in 1474 by a local painter named Minas who came from the area of Marathasa. The church is located in the scenic village of Pedoulas and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is completely decorated on two levels in the local post-Byzantine style which developed prior to the Venetian rule. It includes 11 compositions from the Festival Cycle above and illustrations of Saints below while in the pediments the Crucifixion and the Ascension are drawn.
The church is single-aisled with a sloping mountain roof and the narthex extends to its south and west side. This was used as a loft for women, because of the small size of the church since only men entered the main church building. The church also includes a wooden templon of the same period which remains intact and represents an excellent sample of its kind.
Stavros Agiasmati is a 15th century church which is located about 3 km outside the mountainous village of Platanistasa. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and hosts the most complete collection of mural paintings of the second half of the 15th century on the island.
The church used to be a monastery church and its name derives from the Greek word “Agiasma” (-atos) which means “sanctified water, spring or well near a church”.
Today one can only see traces of the cells of the monastic buildings to the south of the church. The church consists of a single-aisled construction with a steep-pitched timber roof covered with flat tiles and extending beyond the main building to form a portico on the four sides, which is a unique feature in Cyprus.
An inscription states that the church was built through the donation of a priest named Petros Peratis and his wife Pepani. The couple is depicted on a wall painting, offering a model of the church to Jesus with the mediation of the Virgin.
One can also admire the exceptional, multi-person Last Judgment scene which is illustrated up to the far end of the gable where Jesus is drawn.
It is generally accepted that the church decoration was completed in 1494 even though the church’s erection year is not known.
The church of Timios Stavros is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, at the south end of the village of Pelendri, which is attested in the sources since the late 12th century.
In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which included nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range.
The present form of the church is the result of several additions and alterations, carried out throughout various periods.
Originally, it was a single-aisled domed structure, built around the middle of the 12th century.
The original church was destroyed under unknown circumstances.
Only the apse survived, which was incorporated in a new church of the same type, built at the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century.
The monastery of Panagia tou Sinti is deserted and situated on the banks of the Xeros river in Pentalia. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Sinti and functioned until 1927. The premises were restored in 1994 by the Monastery of Kykkos with renovations completed in 1997 when it earned the Europa Nostra Award for restoration techniques and preserving the original character.
The church includes an octagonal dome with four windows and dates back to the first half of the 16th century. It is one of the most important constructions of the Venetian period with its central nave still in good condition.