Just down from Kykkos Monastery
With everyone’s eyes on the Olympics in Sochi it’s hard to think about much else. But here on Cyprus is truly one of the most beautiful and amazing little church on the island. You won’t see anyone skiing in these mountains this year since they have had little or no snow this year. The trip up the mountain is harrowing itself because of all the switch back curves reaching the top. Once you’ve reached the top you are in for a real treat. One of the wealthiest monasteries in the world, Kykkos monastery resides here. The vistas are extraordinary to say the least.
The views pale in comparison to the tradition in which the monastery came about. The story goes that a virtuous hermit called Esaias was living in a cave on the mountain of Kykkos. One day, the Byzantine governor of the island, who was spending the summer at a village of Marathasa because of the heat of the season, went into the forest to hunt. Having lost his way in the forest he met Monk Esaias and asked him to show him the way. The hermit who was not interested in the things of this world would not answer his questions.
Boutoumites got angry at the monk’s indifference and called him names and even maltreated him. Not long after, when the doux returned to Nicosia, he fell ill with an incurable illness by the name of lethargia. In his terrible condition he remembered how inhumanly he had treated the hermit Esaias and asked God to cure him so that he might go to ask the hermit personally for forgiveness. And this came to pass. But God had appeared in front of the hermit and revealed to him that the very thing that had happened had been planned by the divine will and advised him to ask Boutoumites to bring the icon of the Virgin, that had been painted by the Apostle Luke, to Cyprus.
The icon was kept in the imperial palace at Constantinople. When Boutoumites heard the hermit’s wish he was taken aback because he considered such a thing impossible. Then Esaias explained to him that it was a matter of divine wish and they agreed to travel together to Constantinople for the realization of their aim.
Time was passing and Boutoumites could not find the right opportunity to present himself in front of the emperor and ask for the icon. For this reason he provided Esaias with other icons and other necessary things and sent him back to Cyprus, at the same time placating him that he would soon see the emperor. By divine dispensation the daughter of the emperor had fallen ill with the same illness that had struck Boutoumites. The latter grasped the opportunity and went to see the Emperor Alexios III Angelos. He recounted to him his personal experience with the monk Esaias and assured him that his daughter would be cured if he sent to Cyprus the holy icon of the Virgin. In his desperation the emperor, seeing that he had no other option, agreed. His daughter became well instantly. The emperor, however, not wanting to be parted from the icon of the Virgin, called a first-class painter and ordered him to paint an exact copy of the icon with the aim of sending this one to Cyprus.
In the evening the Mother of God herself appears in a dream of the emperor’s and tells him that her wish is for her icon to be sent to Cyprus and for the copy to be kept by the emperor. On the following day the royal boat with the icon of the Virgin departed for Cyprus where Esaias was awaiting for it. During the procession of the icon from the coast to the Troödos Mountains, according to legend, the trees, participating in the welcoming ceremonies, were piously bending their trunks and branches. With patronage provided by the emperor Alexios Komnenos a church and monastery were built at Kykkos, where the icon of the Virgin was deposited.
According to another tradition, still preserved by the people, a bird with human voice was flying around the area singing:
Kykkou, Kykkou, Kykkos’ hill
A monastery the site shall fill
A golden girl shall enter in
And never shall come out again
The “golden girl” is, without a doubt, the icon of the Virgin while the monastery is the Holy Royal and Stavropegiac Monastery of Kykkos which has been sheltering the icon for over nine hundred years.