According to tradition, the Kykkos Monastery was established in the twelfth century AD by a hermit called Esaias, who lived a life of simple piety in the region’s woods. One day the Byzantine governor of Cyprus, Manuel Voutoumites, was hunting in the area and got lost. Coming across Esaias, he asked the way, only to be ignored by the holy man, whose mind was on higher things. As you might expect, the politician took offence at the perceived slight, berating the hermit, or even, according to some versions, giving him a good hiding. Having returned to Lefkosia, Voutoumites contracted a terrible disease and, surmising that this was his punishment for his maltreatment of the holy man, appealed to God to cure him so that he could seek forgiveness. This wish met with divine agreement, but when Voutoumites finally tracked down the hermit and apologized, Esaias set him a task. A famous icon of the Virgin Mary, painted by the Apostle Luke while the Virgin was still alive, and lodged in the Imperial Palace at Constantinople, must be brought to Cyprus. The governor and the sage set off for Constantinople on what Voutoumites considered to be a wild goose chase – he could see no way in which the emperor would accede to the request. But the almighty intervened again. The emperor’s daughter contracted the same disease that had laid Voutoumites low, and he was forced to agree to the icon’s export to Cyprus in order to save her. The icon has been lodged in the monastery ever since.

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