Cat Sanctuary, Byzantine Frescos and the Ancient Monastery of Agios Neophytos
One of the most sacred sites of Cyprus is the Agios Neophytos Monastery near Tala in Southern Cyprus. This is a beautiful monastery in Cyprus located around 9 km from Paphos in the southern part of Cyprus. The Monastery dates back to 1159 when it was founded by Saint Neophytos. This monastery includes the Encleistra of Agios Neophytos, the modern monastery of Agios Neophytos, and the Agios Neophytos Ecclesiastical Museum.
The Encleistra (Place of Seclusion) and the Monastery of Agios Neophytos are situated near the village of Tala, about 9 kilometres north of New Paphos. The Encleistra was initially a natural cave on the eastern side of a hill’s slope, and it is said that Neophytos dug out the cave with his bare hands to create the Encleistra. It is also said that the Encleistra has some of the finest Byzantine frescos in the world.
Saint Neophytos lived here until the age of 85, and 200 years following his death they added a church dedicated to Saint Mary.
Famous Cypriot Theodoros Apsevdis painted the frescoes in the church and the Saint’s cell and Neophytos painted with some of his followers they were restored in 1992. These caves are located about 100 meters from the more modern monastery. The monastery also has a museum with exhibits of icons, pottery and more dating back to Roman and Byzantine periods.
Sacred Sites of Cyprus
Saint Neophytos is considered to be one of the most important figures in the Cypriot Church. In 1214, he wrote the Tipiki Diathiki, which became a sort of rules for administering the Monastery. By this time, a larger community of monks and supplicants had gathered around the Saint. Legend says that the Saint only came out of the cave on Sundays to preach the gospel and lived there until he died in 1219.
According to the inscription in the Saint’s cell, the painter Theodoros Apsevdis completed the frescoes in the Encleistra and in the chapel of Timios Stavros, in 1183. The Saint is pictured twice in the frescoes. Sometime during the beginning of the 13th century the chapel’s frescoes as painted by Apsevdis were painted over and only a few of the original frescoes remain these were then restored in 1992.
Saint Neophytos turned the natural cave into a place of seclusion which consisted of two areas. One area was a small chapel dedicated to Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) and the other was the Saint’s cell, in which he also carved his tomb.
The Saint confined himself in the Encleistra until 1170, when his fame across the island spread the Bishop of Pafos ordained him a priest.
From the monastic structures of the earlier monastery only the little chapel of the Encleistra with the narthex and the sacristy over it, the Saint’s cell with his tomb and the refectory, still survive. Higher on the hill, there exists the Saint’s later cell and the chapel of Agios Ioannis Prodromos.
The katholikon (Church or Chapel) of the Monastery of Agios Neophytos was probably built in the beginning of the 16th century. The original church was completely decorated with frescoes. However, a large part of them was destroyed during the period 1585-1611.
Just outside the monastery walls is a lovely shaded little cafe where you can sit in absolute peace and quiet and enjoy the forest and the birds singing. This is probably one of the most serene and calm places I have ever visited.
Across from the cafe is a small set of shops selling all kinds of tourist type things. These included wind chimes and dream catchers – cheap tacky stuff. It was interesting however to note how many Russian Orthodox people were visiting the Monastery and the shop.
The cost to visit the Monastery is free but you will be asked to pay a €2 Euro contribution to the Museum – well worth it to see the icons alone, which are magnificent.
On the drive up to the Monastery you will see a Cat Sanctuary, run by a group of volunteers (many of them British), that looks after hundreds of feral cats; most of whom have been strays or abandoned. The Monastery Cat Park receives no funding and relies 100% on support and donations from the public.
View this post on Instagram
CAT PARK NEWS… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Well it has been an eventful day! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We arrived at the park just before 8am to find the lock had been broken off the gate. When entering the park, all of the shed doors were open, the donation box was prised open and we discovered the entire cctv system, hard drive, spare cameras, power tools and electrics were gone. In total, over €1000 of stuff was stolen. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Not only was this devastating enough but the cats were upset, a lot had got out into the car park which took time to get back in. Then the sheds which were all open needed sorting and cats getting out which took even longer. Nothing could be touched until the police arrived, volunteers that had got up early to get the park ready for our yearly summer fair were all miserable and couldn’t start the jobs. We’re all feeling very defeated. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Then we found a box by the gate that had had little kittens in that had been dumped but there was no sign of the kittens which we searched for. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As usual you just have to get on with things, we got to work and got the park looking beautiful and clean. Then the weather took a turn for the worst… the skies went black, thick fog and torrential rain hit, we all hid inside one of the sheds and then a bolt of lightening hit our telegraph pole and sizzled it and cut our power. That’s when we realised we were better off closing off early, we were meant to be open until 2 but we closed just before 1 and went up to the Monastery where the Fair was held. The final count up says we made a total of €2141 which is fantastic considering that the lady who was organising it quit on us 5 weeks before the event when it was only half planned, the torrential rain and everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong. Thank you to everyone who supported us today and every other day, you are all fantastic and we couldn’t do this without you.
What sacred sites have you visited?
Pin it for later