Agios Neofytos (1134–1219) was born near the village of Lefkara. As a boy he had a strong yearning towards the spiritual life, especially when his family arranged a marriage for him to which he took exception. He fled to the monastery of Chrystomos, near Buffavento Castle in the north, became a monk, and finally occupied a cave north of Pafos which had been vacated by a previous ascetic. Neofytos expanded it, and settled into a life of quiet contemplation.

God clearly had other plans. Neofytos’s reputation for piety had spread, and acolytes from far and wide converged on the cave, bringing food and other gifts. So raucous did this informal encampment become that poor old Neofytos had to retreat further (in 1197) by moving into the cave above, accessible only by a ladder which he pulled up behind him. The new cave he called, with touching optimism, “New Zion”. Here he wrote a variety of commentaries, meditations, hymns and prayers, as well as a chronicle about the catastrophe that was overcoming Cyprus at the time – conquest by Richard the Lionheart and the start of Lusignan rule of the island. Not bad considering that he only learnt to read aged 18. Neofytos communicated with his followers through a hole in the floor and the site became the basis of an official monastery, the forerunner of the current one, established in 1170 AD. Neofytos died in around 1219, aged over eighty.

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