Brief History of the Monastery of Agia Napa
The monastery of Agia Napa is located in the homonymous village in Ammochostos District. The village got its name from the “Icon of Virgin Mary of Napes”, which means “the Saint of the woods” and thus, she was named “Agia Napa”. This is how the village got its name, Agia Napa, “Holy Forest”.
There is not sufficient evidence as to when the Monastery was originally founded. The cave, the hiding place and the well, all testify to the existence of the Christian community, from the time of the Byzantine era. Agia Napa was given its name before 1366. The Monastery though, as it is today, is a building of the 15th century, when Cyprus was under the sovereignty of the Venetians.
According to local tradition, in the cave that has now become a church, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found by a hunter. The hunter’s dog was first to see the glowing icon and began barking, insistently calling over his master. A considerable number of believers started visiting the holy place of the cave, as soon as they heard about the discovery of the icon. The icon had probably been placed in the cave during the period of iconoclasm (7th-8th century) and thus, it was rescued. In the 14th century, the remaining half of the cave was built into a church.
Another tradition mentions that the daughter of a noble Venetian family took refuge in the cave out of obstinacy, because of her parents’ refusal to allow her marriage with a non-aristocrat. It is said that around the year 1500 the wealthy Venetian built the church, the cells and a flourmill, on her own expenses. (The flourmill was probably installed in the Monastery during the period of the Turkish domination). A women’s Monastery and a Roman chapel were gradually created. The right aisle of the church, right after the entrance, operated as the Roman chapel. The enormous sycamore tree of the Monastery, which is found next to the reservoir, is said to have been planted by the Venetian woman. When the time of her death approached, she built the stone, vaulted monument. She wished to be buried in this monument, next to the dew of the reservoir. On the northern side of the courtyard, there is a fountain with the shape of the head of a wild boar. Above that, the two-floor building is standing, in which the Venetian daughter initially lived.
Up on the hill, on the west side of the church, there is a small, ancient church, that again according to tradition, the Virgin Mary lay down for a while to rest.
In 1571, Cyprus was governed by the Ottoman domination. Unlike other Monasteries and churches, this Monastery was not destroyed. The description of Pietro Della Valle, during 1625, corresponds precisely to the condition of the Monastery as it is today. We are also informed from Pietro Della Valle that Agia Napa used to be a nunnery and owned large amounts of land.
At different periods in time, the Monastery has served as both a nunnery and a Monastery. Just before 1668, the nunnery was changed to a Monastery but for some unknown reason, it ceased to have any permanent inhabitants after the year 1758.
The Monastery used to be located in an uninhabited area. Around the mid-18th century, the first house of the village was built. The first inhabitants of the village were people from Thessalonica, who abandoned their homeland because of the plague epidemic. Later, in 1813, the monastery was repaired but it did not own a monastic community and therefore, the property of the monastery was rented to local farmers. The buildings of the monastery were used for several needs of the community.
After 1878, when Cyprus was under the British domination, there were no monks in the monastery. By this time, the church of the monastery had become the parish church of the village. In 1950, extensive repairs took place in order to maintain the historic buildings.
Upon the years of the Archbishop Makarios III, the monastery was recommended as the most suitable one to become the Ecumenical Centre of Conference. During 1978 to 2006, the conferences between the Christian Churches of the Middle East were held in the Monastery. With the re-establishment of the Constantia Metropolis – Famagusta (2007), the Monastery came under the management of the Metropolis. The reverent Metropolitan bishop of Constantia, Mr. Vassilios, was the first to initiate the establishment of the Cultural Academy “Saint Epifanios” and the monastery itself is its center. The Academy aims at the cultivation of theological and historical studies, and the organization of meetings and conventions. An ecclesiastical museum will also operate within the buildings of the Monastery.
The increasing number of the village’s population raised the need for the building of a new church in 1990. The new church, built on the southwest of the monastery, is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Both churches celebrate on the 8th September, the day of the feast of the Virgin Mary’s birth.
By the grace of the Virgin Mary, couples who are infertile and women who are experiencing difficulties during pregnancy, arrive at the monastery everyday to pray for help and request to gird the miraculous belt of the Saint of Agia Napa. The monastery is a particularly graceful place, where anyone and everyone with faith, can find comfort and spiritual peacefulness. Our loving All Holy Mother, everyday opens her arms to us all, in order to take away our worries and troubles, no matter how severe they seem to be. The Virgin Mary everyday prays for us, for the salvation of our souls.