St Neofytos Monastery

St Neofytos Monastery

About one kilometre from the village of Tala lies the Monastery of Agios Neofytos.

St Neofytos was born in 1134 in the village of Lefkara one of poor large family. At the age of 18 his parents arranged his engagement against his wishes, which was usual in those days.

Neofytos ran away from the village and went to the Monastery of St. John of Koutsoventis to become a monk. Because he was illiterate he was assigned to the cultivation of the monasteries vines. While at the monastery he learnt to read and write and became an expert vine-grower.

He asked the prior to let him become a hermit but the prior refused to allow it due to his young age at the time.

Neofytos then went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem hoping to find a hermit monk who would guide but returned to the monastery without achieving his purpose.

He tried again to convince the prior to let him live as a hermit without result so he decided to abandon the monastery and go to the mountain of Latros in Asia Minor.

He headed to Pafos to try to find a ship but was arrested as a fugitive and imprisoned where the guards stole the his money.

With the help of some pious people he was released from prison but with no money he was forced to look for a hermitage on the island.

He arrived at the cliffs above the village of Tala where he started to enlarge a small cave by removing rocks and carving the cave out. In this way he created the temple of his retreat and a small cell in which he also dug his grave.

In 1170 he received his ordination as a priest and took a disciple, from this time the retreat began to grow in size with more cells being carved out of the rock and beautiful icons being painted on the walls and ceilings. The fame of the saint began to spread and soon the numbers of visitors increased significantly. In 1197, in order to avoid the nuisance of the visitors he was forced to dig another cell high above the retreat which he called the New Zion.

In order to be able to observe the services and participate in the Eucharist he dug a small cell over the temple of the retreat which he connected to the temple through a rectangular hole. It is not known when Saint Neofytos died but it must have been after 1214 after having had his nephew Isaiah appointed as his successor.

He was buried according to his instructions, in the grave he had prepared himself in a wooden coffin made out of pine, cedar and cypress that he had constructed. St Neophytos is known for the large amount of writings which have been published by his Holy Monastery.

After St Neofytos not much is known about his successors although the monastery continued to flourish despite being pillaged by the Turks when they conquered Cyprus.

In 1585 after an order by the Sultan the monasteries were sold off and the monks forced to scatter.

The rebirth of the monastery was achieved by Leontios who gathered monks together and ordained himself as prior. In 1611 he asked Archbishop Christoforos to declare the Monastery as independent. In 1631 the Patriarch if Constantinople Cyrillus confirmed the independence of the Monastery.

The grave and remains of Neophytos were found in 1756 and transferred to the Shrine of the Monastery. The monastery has created a museum to make the treasures of the monastery accessible to visitors.

This monastery is one of our favourite places and we often visit the friendly café for a relaxed lunch under the Platanos trees.

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