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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Byzantine Museum and Monastery of Agios Neophytos

The Byzantine Museum of Pafos exhibits artefacts from the 7th to the 18th centuries, mainly icons. Among them is the 8th or 9th century icon of Agia Marina, one of the oldest found in Cyprus. The museum’s remarkable collection also includes wood carvings, ecclesiastical works of metallurgy, sacerdotal vestments and embroideries, manuscripts, old printed books and frescoes. It was set up in order to preserve, promote and study the inestimable treasures of Byzantine art scattered throughout the parishes of the Pafos diocese and enables visitors to get to know the Byzantine heritage of the Pafos area.

The monastery of Agios Neophytos, in Pafos, is one of the most important religious Monuments of Cyprus. It is both a place of pilgrimage and of great interest to visitors. It contains some of the finest Byzantine frescoes from the 12th to the 15th centuries. The later monastery church contains some of the best examples of post-Byzantine icons of the 16th century, and there is also a very interesting ecclesiastical museum. 

The monastery was built in the beginning of the 16th century on the side of a steep hill covered in dense vegetation, beside a deep gorge through which flows a torrent of water. The monastery is situated in Tala, a village about 10 kilometres north of Pafos town centre at an altitude of 412 metres. Its north-westerly facing position offers unique views. To the west of the monastery is the Engleistra (Place of Seclusion) which was initially a natural cave on the eastern slope of the hill. 

Inside the Engleistra, Saint Neophytos led a hermit’s life. He is considered to be one of the most significant figures of the Church of Cyprus. According to the 'Τipiki Diathiki' ('Typical Testament' ), which he composed in 1214, he moved into the small carved chapel in 1159. Neophytos turned the natural cave into a place of seclusion which consisted of two areas. One area was a small chapel dedicated to Timios Stavros ( Holy Cross) and the other was the Saint’s cell, in which he also carved his tomb. 

His cell communicated with the church’s bema. He confined himself in the Engleistra until 1170, when he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Pafos, Vasilios Kinnamos, spreading his fame throughout the island. Many monks gathered around him, forming a monastic community, for which Saint Neophytos composed the aforementioned 'Τipiki Diathiki' which comprised a set of rules related to the administration of the monastery. The Saint’s need for serenity and seclusion led him to carve another Engleistra higher on the rock, above the old chapel.


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