Ayia Napa Monastery
The monastery of Ayia Napa is set in Ayia Napa village. The village is named after the “Icon of Virgin Mary of Napes”, which means “Saint of the woods”. The village is named, Ayia Napa meaning “Holy Forest”.
There is not sufficient evidence regarding the Monastery's foundation. The cave, the hiding place and the well that are located at the same place, indicate the existence of the Christian community. The Monastery is a 15th century building from the Venetian rule.
Local tradition has it that the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found by a hunter in the cave that has now become a church. As soon as the discovery of the icon was announced, an important number of believers started to visit the holy place of the cave. The icon had most probably been placed in the cave during the iconoclastic period in order to be rescued. Then in the 14th century, the remaining half of the cave was turned into a church.
Another tradition speaks about the daughter of a noble Venetian family who took refuge in the cave after her parents refused to allow her marriage with a non-aristocrat. It is believed that around the year 1500 the wealthy Venetian built the church, the monastery cells and a flour mill, on her own expenses. A women’s Monastery and a Roman chapel were gradually built. The right aisle of the church operated as a Roman chapel. According to the same tradition the enormous sycamore tree of the Monastery, next to the reservoir, had been planted by the Venetian woman. She also had built the stone, vaulted monument to be buried after death. In the courtyard, there is a venetian fountain and a two-storey building where the woman used to live.
Up on the hill, on the west side of the cave, there is a small, ancient church, where according to tradition, the Virgin Mary lay down to rest for a while.
In 1571,during the Ottoman domination, this Monastery was not destroyed, unlike other Monasteries and churches. We are also informed from Pietro Della Valle that Ayia Napa Monastery used to be a nunnery with large amounts of land. For some unknown reason, it stopped having any permanent inhabitants after 1758.
The Monastery used to be located in an uninhabited area. Around the mid-18th century, the first house of the village was built. In 1813, the monastery was repaired but it did not have a monastic community and as a result the property of the monastery was rented to local farmers. The various buildings of the monastery were also used for several needs of the community.
After 1878, when Cyprus came under the British domination, the church of Ayia Napa Monastery had become the parish church of the village. later in 1950, extensive repairs took place in order to maintain the historic monument.
During the following years, the monastery was recommended as the most suitable to become the Ecumenical Centre of Conference. Between 1978 to 2006, the conferences of the Christian Churches of the Middle East were held in Ayia Napa Monastery. The reverent Metropolitan bishop of Constantia, Mr. Vassilios established the Cultural Academy “Saint Epifanios” with the monastery being its center. The Academy's principal is the cultivation of theological and historical studies as well as the hosting of meetings and conventions. An ecclesiastical museum is also planned to operate within the buildings of the Monastery.
The increase experienced in the number of the village’s population rose the need for the building of a new church in 1990. The new church, built very close to the old monastery, is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Both churches celebrate on the 8th September, which is the day of the celebration of the Virgin Mary’s birth.
In the name of the Virgin Mary, many couples who are facing infertility problems and women who are experiencing various difficulties during their pregnancy, arrive daily at the monastery to pray for help and request to gird on the miraculous belt of Ayia Napa. The monastery is a graceful place, where anyone with faith, can find comfort and spiritual tranquility.