The story of the small monastery built by Dimitris from Vouni with his own hands

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In August 2019, Cyprus learned of a small, secluded monastery located in the mountainous area of Limassol, when it was threatened by fires that spread across the landscape close to the villages of Vouni and Pachna. This monastery has, of course, stood for over 70 years, since the monk Damaskinos, originally from the village of Vouni, settled there, living in seclusion with only the company of his faith in God.

The Monastery of the Resurrection of the Saviour was built on a site located far from the final houses of the village, surrounded by vineyards and wild vegetation. It was an environment familiar to Damaskinos, as he came from a poor family from rural Vouni in Limassol, and so he settled there in 1948. His parents were Michael and Despina Kouzoupi, and he, born in 1915, had been baptized Dimitris. The family's financial situation did not allow him to continue his studies after elementary school, so he entered the workforce.

Dimitris found himself occupying in various jobs in Limassol from the age of 16, however at the age of 27 he decided to pursue a monastic life, and so in 1942 joined the Stavrovouni Monastery. The tension among the Church’s members regarding the issue of the old and the new testement upset Dimitris, who eventually fled to the Monastery of Trooditissa, where he received the name Damaskinos. There, his desire to find a refuge far from regular civilisation began to grow even more intense, as pilgrims frequently visited the Monastery.

The opportunity came in 1948, when he decided to settle on the small estate he inherited from his parents near Vouni, and live a solitary life, doing what he learned to do best when growing up in the area: cultivating the land. His meals consisted of vegetables that he himself grew in the fields, cooked in a wood-fired oven with water extracted from a manual pump. Beyond the orchard, however, he also kept bees, utilizing the little knowledge he had collected on this pursuit in his younger years. Because the area around his settlement offered a great deal of wild weeds, he was able to draw on his knowledge of creating traditional woven chairs, which he sold in order to be able to purchase whatever the estate did not offer him.

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His daily life progressed smoothly and slowly, with his days being divided between labour of the land, study of the scriptures, and prayer. Though it was his preference for secrecy and isolation which drove him to live in solitude, during the EOKA struggle in '55 - '59 he took part in the action, either transferring messages or hiding guerrilla fighters in his home. His greatest desire, however, was to build a chapel beyond his modest residence, which to this day remains the only church in Cyprus dedicated to the Resurrection of the Saviour. In 1960 he invited craftsmen from the village of Agios Amvrosios to build the chapel, which was finally opened in 1985, enriching the role of the skete.

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The church of the monastery of the Ressuraction of the Saviour.

Consumed by old age and illness, the monk, born in 1915 as Dimitris of Vouni village, took his last breath as a Damaskinos in 2005, at the age of 90. The life he had chosen, however, had prepared him for that end long ago, and, as he used to say, the course of a monk's life is the memory of death.

In his covenant he had stated his desire to be buried in the tomb he had himself prepared, north of the temple. "I created the grave to make it easy for my fathers to bury me here," he said.

Damaskinos wanted his skete to continue to function as a small monastery, although he admitted that "you can't take somebody by force and make him a monk." His wish was fulfilled and in 2012, when Father George, coming from the Monastery of Christ the Counsellor, settled in the area. Father George, having lived a regular life and raised children and grandchildren, he decided to begin his religious practice, choosing to test himself through a solitary life, with faith as his only companion, as Damaskinos had done.

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Since 2012, the site has been renovated and equipped with a mansion that welcomes the faithful who visit here. 

Many years have passed sin 1948 and many things have changed. "We are a sort of modern hermits today", Father George says, being the one who takes care of the monastery in Vouni these days. Access to fresh water (Damaskinos used to pump water out manually with an old pump, called 'touloumba', which is still in the monastery), electricity, telephones are amenities that may be considered a given now, but did not exist back then.

In August 2019, Father George was forced to leave the monastery to save his life, when the entire area was surrounded by a large fire. He was scared that he would never see it again. After the fire was put out, he returned to the monastery to see that everything around it was burned down, but it was still standing without any sign of damage.

What hasn't changed is the atmosphere of the space, which is a result of the life and action of the people that lived there. In a way, Damaskinos is still present in the monastery. It is not just because of his grave, which is situated next to the monastery, reminding that he is resting in the grounds where he was raised, the grounds he watered, cultivated and lived from. It is the tranquillity, the simplicity and the naturality of this area, which marks the quintessence of his existence.

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Father George has live almost his entire life in Limassol with his family, but now he is the one that welcomes the few pilgrims that visit the monastery, with the serene smile that the life in solitude offers to these people.

The people, their work and their ideas, their life experiences, their relationship with other people and the Nature, leave their mark and eventually form the character of a place. In this small farm in Limassol's mountains, which Damaskinos (and formerly Dimitris) inherited, the humble hermit created a corner where the soul can rest in peace and open up to something greater and Higher than the material goods one sees.

After all, the little piece of land the Dimitris Kouzoupis had inherited became a monastery small and huble, but welcoming and open to people, instead of ending up a barren field, like many others in the area. And this is why such a tribute was created in All About Limassol, the Official Guide of Limassol. Because Damaskinos, with this humble heritage, left his own mark, preserving through his solitary life in this little piece of land, the ingenuous spirituality and the primal connection of the people with their land. 

* NOTE: The tributes of the Project "History of Limassol" present information that has emerged from historical research thus far. Any new data is embedded into the tributes, once it has been confirmed.