Sunday 14 December 2014

Kykkos Monastery - Cyprus at its most lavish and opulent

In the course of my travels, I try to seek out locations and sights that would stir and inspire me.  My heart is often drawn impatiently towards the destination, sometimes forgetting that the journey getting there is just as much an experience.  

The island of Cyprus is a Mediterranean paradise.  After working in Nicosia and Paphos, both bustling resort paradises (particularly the latter), I set off in search of one of the most lavish and religious icons of Cyprus, the Kykkos Monastery.  In distance, it is only 70km from Paphos,
and with my Formula One driving it would less than an hour - or so I thought.  

It started out on a small stretch of motorway.  All good.  Then came a sign that points to Troodos, the mountainous region where the monastery is built.  For the next hour-and-half, I barely shifted beyond 2nd gear, negotiating with the unforgiving mountain curves, one after another, and another, and another.  I was getting impatient, cursing under my breath, and yearning for a break.

And there I discovered the beautiful landscape of the Troodos.  Acres of farms and herds of Cypriot Shami goats graced the mountains, under a blue, spotless sky. Barely a house or a soul in sight, and it was one of the most beautiful and tranquil landscape I have seen.

Admiring the stunning scenery made the rest of the driving seemed like a breeze.  Without much fanfare, I finally arrived at the Kykkos Monastery, and it was absolutely not what I have expected.

I have done a fair bit of reading before coming, including its famous legend quoted in Wikipedia, and I was expecting a grand and ostentatious entrance.  Instead, it was a modest building of understated elegance, shrouded in tranquil solemnity and gorgeous natural landscape.

Founded in 11th Century and standing at 1318 metres above sea level, the monastery was burned down numerous times throughout its thousand-year history, and the present building is maintained in pristine condition and lavishly decorated.  An icon of prime importance in Orthodox belief, the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), was brought here from Constantinople, ensuring its attention and position on the island.  This icon of Mary is said to have miraculously helped the locals struggle against unpredictable natural disasters, from locust attacks to drought.

The richly decorated porch opens up to a quiet courtyard (and visitors are asked to put on robes before entering), surrounded by buildings in tiled roofs, arched passageways, and wooden stairs, and impressive murals and frescos.  A bell tower stood against the wooded hillside, quieting watching over the Monastery.  The opulent church was every bit as lavish as imagined.  Every inch of wall and ceiling was covered in reliquary and art in one dominant colour - gold.  The museum now exhibits a treasure trove of art and relics collected throughout its history.

What began as an impatient road trip ended in transcendent splendor.  If I ever return to Paphos I would take the same drive again.  Aside from Kykkos, several small churches dot the Troodos mountains, and they are all listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.  

Official website with lots of pictures and videos (in Greek):
Add Kykkos on Facebook at

Last photo taken from Wikimedia

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