Cyprus // Larnaka and around //

Agia Napa Monastery

Amid the bars and traffic of Agia Napa, it’s something of a shock to find a beautifully renovated monastery (originally a convent) – looking like a stern elderly relative from a bygone age frowning at all the nonsense going on around her. As with many religious sites in Cyprus, it comes with a complicated and confused story. A hunter, out with his dog, discovered a cave and spring in the woods. Not only did his mangy dog develop a new healthy-looking coat after bathing in the spring water, but the hunter also found an icon of the Virgin Mary in the cave, hidden there during iconoclastic attacks on such pictures in the eighth or ninth centuries. This story led to widespread belief in the miraculous powers of the water and the icon. In around 1500, a convent was built on the site as a refuge for a Venetian noblewoman whose father had refused her permission to marry a commoner. After the Ottoman conquest of 1571 the Roman Catholic Venetians were replaced by Greek Orthodox nuns, and in 1668 they in turn were replaced by monks. Today an Ecumenical Conference Centre, its courtyard and octagonal fountain are a haven of tranquillity at the heart of Agia Napa’s frenzy.