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The Monastery of Saint Herakleidios

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The Monastery of Saint Herakleidios is build in the southeast of the village of Politiko, in the province of Nicosia, at a location near the ancient city of Tamassos. The Monastery is dedicated to Saint Herakleidios, a pupil of the Apostles Paul, Barnabas and Mark, who was ordained by them as the first Bishop of Tamasos.

Saint Herakleidios, as it is widely known, took a leading role in the proliferation and the spread of Christianity in Cyprus, and for this reason he is considered as one of the most important local saints of the island. According to a version about his life, which is based on relevant tradition, Saint Herakleidios seceded to the archiepiscopal throne of Cyprus, the founder of the Cypriot Church, Barnabas the Apostole, so he is considered by many ecclesiastical writers as the second Archbishop of Cyprus.

Several indirect evidence such as references to his life, dating to the fifth century, in cells and in the cave-church, where he lived, support the establishment of a monastery from the Early Byzantine period, in the vicinity where the Monastery is now. However, this is not confirmed by other sources. However, the foundations which the present monastery complex is build on, date back to the Early Byzantine period and attest to the continued honour played to the memory of Saint Herakleidios in the region.

According to the results of excavations conducted by the Department of Antiquities in 1963, a Martyrion (small construction) was founded in the 4th century over the Roman tomb, which is allegedly the tomb of the Saint. Then, as shown by archaeological excavations, in the 5th century, west of the tomb and the site where the church of the Monastery is, the southern porch and the nave, a three aisled basilica was build, of which the aisles are separated by columns.

Excavations have also shown that after the destruction of the first basilica, another basilica of the same size was founded in the 8th century, which was maintained until the 14th to 15th century.

At that same time, a domed Mausoleum was built on the ruins of the 4th century Martyron, and on the middle aisle of the basilica, the present southern aisle of the church. It is notable that, Nile, the Abbot of the Monastery of Macheras, and later Bishop Tamasos does not mention in his “Formal Order”, written in 1201 and ratified in 1210, anything what so ever by the Monastery of Saint Herakleidios, although he notes that during this period he established in the area of Tamasos the women’s monastery of Panagia Vlachernitissa, of which the exact location is now unknown.

During this period, a hagiographic workshop was operating at Saint Herakleidios Monastery which has produced a very rich production of icons. For a period of almost one hundred years, the icon painters of the Monastery, would paint icons, The Beautiful Gates, and crucifixions for the iconostases and decorate with murals many churches on the island.

During the 18th century, among the hagiographers in Saint Herakleidios, stand out, the monk Ioannikios the teacher, and his students, the monks Nektarios, Filaretos and deacon Lavrentius, deacon Leontius, and another Filaretos and Leontius who was also a archimandrite, and who would continue hagiography until the first years of the 19th century.

The most important of the religious painters was Ioannikios the teacher, who was also an excellent calligrapher, and ieromonah Filaretos, who had a rich hagiographic activity. Works of Ioannikios survive in many churches on the island, such as the fresco in the church of Agia Marina in the village of Kythrea of the year 1735, and icons in the Monastery to Saint Spyridon in Tremetousia, in the church of Agia Napa in Limassol, in the church of Agia Marina in the village of Tersefanou, in the church of Agios Georgios Arperas, in the church of Trypiotis and elsewhere.

Filaretos who came from the village of Psimolofou was an able hagiographer. Some of his work survives in the church of the village of Tokhni, in the church of the Virgin Mary Chrysogalaktousa of the village of Apsiou, in the Monastery of Saint Thekla in the village of Mosfiloti, in the church of the Holy Cross of the village of Pano Lefkara, in the church of the Virgin Mary the Odigitria of the village of Pera Orinis, and elsewhere.

As evidenced by a lease of the year 1850, after the disbanding of the Monastery, following the tragic events of 1821, the Archbishopric of Cyprus rented its land estates to different individuals, clergy and laity, who were called “Caretakers”. One such tenant was monk Cyril from the village of Tseri, who lived at the Monastery of Saint Herakleidios from 1875 until his death, which occurred in 1910.

Then, the Monastery of Saint Herakleidios continued to be rented to farmers, dealing with the cultivation of its land estates. Meanwhile, the church and the buildings of the Monastery had suffered heavy damage from their long abandonment and were threatened with collapse. The Monastery was in this condition until the early years of the Independence of Cyprus, when this time it reopened, as a female commune.

It was then, on July 23, 1962, that the nuns Charithea, Theofano and Efpraxia who previously resided in the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Kaimakli, established themselves in the Monastery with the blessing and encouragement of Archbishop Makarios III (1950-1977) and set the foundations for its subsequent development.

With the financial and spiritual support of Makarios and the guidance of the Department of Antiquities, the sisterhood has worked hard to renovate the holy shrines and monastic buildings and erecting new ones. Three years later, in 1965, the operating regulations of the Monastery were made, and on December 11, 1966, nun Charithea was enthroned as its Abbess. There are currently 40 nuns residing in the Monastery and as of May 28, 2000, sister Prodromi has become its new Abbess.

Postal Address: Monastery St. Irakleidios 2648 Nicosia

Accreditation: Metropolis Tamasos and Mountain

Operation Period: All year

Hours: Winter Hours Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 and 14.30 until sundown. Saturday – Sunday 6:00 a.m. until sundown. Summer Hours Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 and 15:30 – 18:00 Saturday – Sunday 6:00 a.m. – 18:00 For tourists guests, organized groups and groups Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 12.00.

Facilities: The monastery is accessible for people in wheelchairs. Practicable after timely communication with the monastery to open the main gate so that people with disabilities get off just outside the entrance of the monastery. There are restrooms but no for people in wheelchairs. Parking is available. There is a shop where visitors have the opportunity to purchase various souvenirs such as books (in Greek, English Russian and French) images and traditional products such as sweets, almond, cookies, oranges, olives and honey. The transactions are cash and credit card.

Telephone: 22624176

Admission Fee: Free. Accepted voluntary contributions.

Courtesy of the CTO