St. Luke's Icon of Mary and the remote monastery of Kykkos

Kykkos Travel Blog

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From Pedoulas, It was 20 kilometers to Kykkos, which took about 30 minutes. It was switchback after switchback and a continuous ascent. These monks really wanted to be far, far away from human habitation.

 

Kykkos is a bit different. It is a working monastery and a museum, also.  It is not completely separate from the functional space of the items it exhibits and neither is it a museum that contains exhibits only on the strength of their artistic value as are the museums of ancient Greek art. It is a museum situated inside the monastery itself and like its treasury it forms an integral part of it. Its exhibits such as icons, holy objects, woodcarvings, vestments, embroideries, manuscripts etc, are exhibited as part of the living adoration and the history of the monastery.

 

The Holy Monastery of the Virgin of Kykkos was founded around the end of the 11th century by the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081 - 1118).

According to tradition a virtuous hermit, called Esaias, was living in a cave on the mountain of Kykkos. One day, the Byzantine governor of the island Doux Manuel Voutoumites, 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.

 

Voutoumites 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 Voutoumites 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 Voutoumites 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 Voutoumites. The latter grasped the opportunity and went to see the emperor Alexios. 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 Troodos 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.

 

The icon is never looked at and remains hidden behind a protective covering. It is said that whoever looks at it will be blinded. The last person to have seen the icon is the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria Gerasimos, in 1669. The icon is rarely uncovered, although this happens on occasion. In recent years there had been a drought affecting Cyprus, in response to which the fathers took the icon to her throne, and read special supplications for rain, whilst looking away from the uncovered icon.

 

The museum is really remote in location with makes for a peaceful and picturesque spot. It’s almost at the top of the mountain and is surrounded by forest. The exterior is simple high stone surrounding structure with a large courtyard and Chapel.

The entry gate and walkways are filled with colorful Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. They tell many stories of the founding of the monastery, life here, and other religious stories. There is a bell tower farther up the mountain that is a striking find within the trees.

 

The museum doesn’t allow photography, but I was able to buy a book on the collection. It is so amazing. The Icon collection compares with what I would find in the Byzantine Musuem in Pafos. The manuscripts and Russian gospel covers are especially fantastic.

 

Just walking the property, the view is quite a contrast, ancient frescoes and natural landscape….so removed from the rest of the world.

 

Upon leaving, I saw that the road continued up the mountain and behind the monastery.

I though I could get a good shot from above. I drove farther up the mountain and did find the belfry but, could not find a good location for a picture. I got a partial shot from the best vantage point. It will have to do.

 

I continued driving as the top couldn’t be much further. The road ended with a park area with a large statue of an Orthodox priest. The overlooks on both sides were just amazing. The Akamas Peninsula lay before me, just over the mountains.

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Kykkos
photo by: delsol67