After a visit to Choiroikitia, I drive past the lovely villages tucked away in the dry Cyprus landscape directly north of the neolithic ruins, head north, and end up driving the mountain road to the monastery that I can see from afar. I am on my way to Stavrovouni Monastery, supposedly the oldest monastery on the island. Its claim to fame is that it holds a piece of the Holy Cross on which Jesus was crucified. The mother of Constantine the Great, the famous emperor, is said to have brought the piece to Cyprus herself, when she came back from Jerusalem in 327. The road meanders around the mountain, at times allowing for great views of the monastery on top. The last part are switchbacks, and then I park my car next to the small All Saints Church, which is perched on the northeastern edge of the ridge on which the monastery lies. When I reach the gate, I find the big gate shut, and discover that it is closed between 12 and 3pm, so I turn around: I arrived just after 12.
A few days later, I am driving up the mountain again at the end of the day. I did not have lunch yet, and when I take out the bag with food I wanted to eat here, a bunch of healthy looking cats run to me. To my surprise, they like the stuffed pastry I took, so I end up sharing it with them. I am dressed properly, go to the gate, and are required to leave my camera behind. Women are also not allowed in: the very Helena who took the cross here, could not come and visit. I walk up the stairs to the monastery proper, which is a complex of buildings on top of Stavrovouni mountain. In fact, the name means "Mountain of the Cross". I see signs that cell phones are prohibited, and will be confiscated in case they are found. I feel mine burning in my pocket now. When I arrive at a tiny courtyard with the church, a monk and a worker are mopping the floor, and a bench blocks the entrance.
One of the monks tell me to wait, if I want to see the church. I have time, so I sit on one of the benches, wondering why they could not clean the floor during their 3 hour break. I see the handsome bell-tower right above me, and enjoy the peace of this ancient monastery with my eyes closed. One of the monks offers me juice, which I gladly accept. Then, a group of soldiers from the base at the foot of the mountain comes in, the bench is removed, and we are allowed to enter the church. After seeing the marvellous painted churches in the Troodos mountain region, it is nothing truly spectacular, but I follow the soldiers and head for the far corner on the east side of the church. Here, I find the solid silver cross, that holds the famous piece of the Holy Cross. I wait for the soldiers to pay their respects, and then find myself all alone with the cross. No monk around, and for a split second, I consider taking a quick snap with my phone. Then, the confiscation warning comes to mind, and I decide against it. I thank the monks, enjoy the views from the balcony on the west side of the monastery, and walk down. From here, it is a straight drive to the airport - and then, home.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Stavrovouni Monastery (Cyprus). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Stavrovouni Monastery. Read more about this site.