Heart of Cyprus - Stavrovouni Monastery Tour
Duration: Half Day
Steeped in history, the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus boasts a rich archaeological heritage and a plethora of ancient religious relics, many of which can be found in and around Larnaka, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. This tour will introduce you to the beautiful Stavrovouni Monastery, believed to be the oldest and most dramatically sited monastery in Cyprus. Although the building is strictly accessible to men only, the picturesque views of the monastery and surrounding area are well worth a visit in itself.
Located approximately 25 miles (40km) away from Larnaka city in the District of Larnaka, the impressive Stavrovouni Monastery is perched atop a small mountain of the same name. The name is dedicated to the Holy Cross and can be derived from the two words 'stavros’ (meaning cross) and 'vouno' (meaning mountain).
According to legend, Saint Helena (mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great) brought a fragment of the Holy Cross here on her way back from a pilgrimage in Jerusalem in the early 4th century. She erected the cross on the mountain and founded the monastery shortly after her son officially recognized Christianity, hence its name “Mountain of the Cross”. Unfortunately, the Holy Cross is no longer there and its whereabouts are unknown, but a small piece of St Helena's cross is allegedly now preserved inside a silver cross inside the church.
Stavrovouni is the earliest documented monastery on the island. The oldest written reference dates back to the Byzantine period (the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages), and proves that this monastery was once an important religious centre. Stavrovouni has stood through turbulent periods of invasion and fire over the centuries, and the building recently underwent a complete renovation.
Today, Stavrovouni is one of the strictest monasteries in Cyprus and the present monks live a very devout monastic life. Amongst this community lives one of the greatest modern icon painters of the Greek Orthodoxy, whose work can be seen hanging in Stavrovouni's church. Female visitors are forbidden from entering the monastery, but all visitors are allowed to visit the bookshop and the small church outside. From the top of the peak you can enjoy spectacular views of Larnaca Bay and the Troodos Mountains, which will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your holiday in Cyprus.
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