Egkleistra

Ayios Neophytos Monastery


Useful Information

Location: Pafos. Located in a hill high above Pafos, 9km north of Pafos, near Tala. (34.725, 32.6042)
Open: APR to OCT daily 9-12, 14-16.
NOV to MAR daily 9-16.
[2020]
Fee: Church: free.
Museum: Adults EUR 2.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: electric.
Dimension:  
Guided tours:  
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address:  
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History

1159 founded by Saint Neophytos.
1214 Saint Neophytos wrote the Tipiki Diathiki.

Description

The Ιερά Μονή Αγίου Νεοφύτου (Agios Neophytos Monastery) is a monastery founded by the monk Neophytos. He was arrested in 1159 at Paphos for trying to escape to Mt. Latmos in Asia Minor and pursue an ascetic life. The attempted embarkation was not illegal so he was shortly released from prison, but the guards had stolen his travel funds. He went into the hills above Paphos, where he found a natural cave that had already been used by a previous hermit. According to legend he excavated the cave with his bare hands to create the Engleistra which took a full year. He created two chambers, a chapel dedicated to Timios Stavros (Shrine of the Holy Cross) and his cell with his tomb. When he had finished the tomb, he stood in front of it and said to himself "Neofytos, even if you would earn the entire world, nothing will remain yours but this grave". Later the refectory was added. Engleistra means place of seclusion, and actually it was his hermitage.

His fame nevertheless spread across the island and he eventually gained a small number of followers. Being against materialism and hating being bothered by others, he was not that popular and there were much bigger monastic communities. In 1170 Vasilios Kinnamos, the Bishop of Pafos, became aware of him and convinced him to take a pupil. In a second Ritual Ordinance as a priest he became the abbot of the monastery which had around fifteen monks. After some time a larger community of monks and supplicants gathered around the Saint. And finally he wrote the Tipiki Diathiki, rules for administering a monastery, in 1214. He lived in the cave until he died in 1219 at the age of 85 and was buried in the grave he had dug.

Another legend tells, the abbot was annoyed by the hustle of the new monastery. In his need for serenity and seclusion he dug another Engleistra higher up on the rock, above the old chapel. Next to his new cell he carved another small chapel dedicated to Agios Ioannis Prodromos (Saint John the Baptist). To reach this cave he climbed up a rope ladder and nobody could reach him there. For the same reason this cave is not open for the public. It was decorated with frescoes and murals depicting the Saint in full length. The visitor is rewarded for his ascent by an impressive view from the high balcony.

Saint Neophytos (1134–1219) is one of the most important figures in the Cypriot Church. He is also known as Neophytos of Cyprus or Neophytos the Recluse. His writings preserved the history of the early crusades. Famous is his history of Cyprus entitled Concerning the Misfortunes of the Land of Cyprus.

The Encleistra and the Chapel of Timios Stavros contain frescoes, which where paintend by Theodoros Apsevdis and completed in 1183. At least that's what the inscription in the frescoes states. The Saint is depicted twice in the frescoes, and as it was painted while he still lived it most likely actually shows how he looked, probably idealized. During the early 13th century the frescoes in the chapel were painted over and only a few remain today. They were restored in 1992.

The modern monastery with its various buildings is much younger. The katholikon (Church or Chapel) of the monastery was built in the early 16th century. It was completely decorated with frescoes which were mostly destroyed between 1585 and 1611.

The monastery is located at the Charta summit of the Melissovouno (honey mountains), which reaches 612m asl. The monastery's church houses an ecclesiastical museum with manuscripts, holy utensils, and old books. The ecclesiastical collection includes garments, various religious objects, and post-Byzantine icons of the 16th century. The historic collection includes ancient jewelry, Cypriot pottery, and old maps.