​The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the Cats and the legends around its name

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Tradition and Customs

According to the traditions, Saint Helena leaving gold for the erection of churches and monasteries during her visit to Limassol, established one of the most important buildings of the Byzantine period, the monastery of Saint Nicholas. The monastery was founded in the 4th century in the Akrotiri area and since then it bears the characterization of the "Cats" next to its name.

The tradition gives many explanations about the name of the monastery, which is directly related to the feline family. A legend indicates that when the monastery was erected, the Akrotiri peninsula suffered from poisonous snakes that multiplied due to a long period of drought. Then, Saint Helena longing to fight the scourge of the snakes, gathered hundreds of cats in the monastery. Since then the habit of keeping cats as snake traps, has spread very quickly to other monasteries too.

Another tradition recounts that in the 4th century, Governor Kalokeros, who was sent by the Emperor Constantine, aiming at the extermination of the snakes in Cyprus, brought about 1000 cats in the monastery. Kalokeros asked the monks to keep at least 100 cats every day, and he also ordered them to give them some meat in the morning and evening, so they wouldn’t have to absorb the poison of the snakes all the time. These cats, as the myth continues, when they were hearing the marker sound, they were stopping the snake hunting and they were gathering at the church's precinct, where the circular wooden food cubes were.

From the time of the Byzantine era until today, although it has experienced great alterations and reconstructions, the monastery still functions. It’s remarkable that even today, the monastery continues to bear the name of cats, but also to honor the name deservedly, since there are around 100 cats living in its area. 

Source of information: Akrotiri Community Council

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