Holy Cross Monastery (Omodos)

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During the first years of the propagation of Christianity in Cyprus, followers of the new religion were under pogrom and had to seek refuge in the mountains and other less approachable areas for their religious ceremonies. They would also bring with them their holy items (such as icons and crosses) and one such item appears to have been the cross discovered on the slope where the church and monastery of the Holy Cross of Omodos stands today.

The monastery was founded following the discovery of the cross at this spot by residents of neighboring villages Ano and Kato Koupetra (which are no longer in existence today), and is said to have begun as a small chapel which garnered a gathering of several monks, resulting in its transformation into a magnificent monastery. Τhe Monastery was established before St. Helen’s arrival in Cyprus in 327 AD and various historians of Cyprus, such as Neofytos Rodinos, Russian monk and traveler Barsky, Dean Kyprianos and others, make reference to St. Helen’s visit to Cyprus and to the fact that she left a part of the Holy Rope and the Holy Rood in the Monastery.

The presence of the monastery appears to have been the reason for the creation of the village, while in modern times it constitutes one of the main reasons for its survival and development. During the difficult centuries of Ottoman rule, the Monastery survived and flourished. Around 1700, it secured a bond of immunity and asylum from the Sultan, and in 1917, the entire Monastery property was handed over to the Omodos residents. A few years later, it was deprived of its last few monks, and turned into a parish.

The monastery entrance comprises a large, vaulted arched door, fitted with heavy double latches that served to protect it from attacks under the Ottoman rule. The building complex comprises many stone-built cells, cellars and guest houses spread across a ground floor and first floor, with all the rooms facing the central courtyard where the church is located. The present form of the church, divided in 3 aisles, is the result of its reconstruction during the second half of the 19th century. In the temple, one can admire the stunning, large murals, which were created by Othon Yiavopoulos from 1905 to 1912, with images that borrow elements from both the byzantine and the western tradition in painting.

Beyond the impressive wooden balconies, carved doors and the characteristic wood ceiling, the Synodicon is especially of value, boasting a wood-carved inlay of unparalleled beauty. It features an excellent specimen of wood carving in the Rococo style, made from thousands of small pieces of wood, harmoniously weaved together. The throne of the Holy Cross, a true masterpiece, is carved from walnut wood. With the two-headed eagle towering above, the throne also serves as a crypt for the Holy Cross.