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Statos – Agios Photos

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Statos–Agios Fotios is a community consisting of two villages, Statos and Agios Fotios, in the Paphos District of Cyprus. The two are located about 4 km south-south-west of Pano Panagia. As of 2011, their combined population was 243. Built at an altitude of 913 meters, amidst a verdant landscape on the eastern slopes of the mountainous areas of the province, Statos-Agios Fotios is a sparsely populated village with well- kept gardens and good planning. It is a partnership and a unification of two separate settlements, which in the 1970s became a single one. The two villages, which were two kilometers away from each other during the 1966-1969 period, due to the rapid rainfall, suffered serious damage from the devastating landslides of the era, and the then government called special geologists to study the phenomenon. It was therefore deemed necessary to move the settlements to another location and so the residents of the two communities decided to unite, with the consent of the local government and the President of the Republic of Cyprus Archbishop Makarios III. At the end of 1973, the first inhabitants of the new village began to move, while with the Turkish invasion of 1974, many refugees from the occupied northern areas of Cyprus moved to the area, building there their new home. The houses in the two previous settlements were abandoned, with the exception of some that the shepherds use when they take their herds grazing in the area.

Statos-Agios Fotios, the most mountainous village in the province of Paphos, has a great tradition in viticulture and because of the altitude, the vineyards of the area are the last to ripen. This is where the black grape, the xinisteri, the caperne, and, to a lesser extent the malaga variety, thrive. Another natural feature of the community is the walnut tree, since all the streets are planted with these beautiful trees, while apple, pear, peach, cherry and many other fruit and citrus trees are also growing in the area. From the grape, the inhabitants produce traditional zivania (pomace brandy), soutzoukos (traditional local sweets made out of grapes) and raisins. In the local dairy and meat processing farms locals produce plenty of dairy and deli products such as tsamarellla, sausages of Paphos, haloumi, trachanas, walnuts and almonds are produced. There are also small workshops in the area that make traditional spoon sweets (sweet preserves).

Ideal starting point for excursions to nearby churches-monasteries in the area and a quiet community that offers tranquility, a cool climate during the summer months and the beauties of the Cypriot countryside, Statos-Agios Fotios will satisfy any visitor who will ascend to the highest point of the province.

Churches

Church of Christ the Saviour

The central church of he Statos – Agios Photios community is dedicated to Christ the Saviour. Its construction started in 1970 when the village relocated and the presence of a new Church in the Community was necessary. The operations for the church were completed in 1976. It was built with expenses paid by the state and was internally decorated through many donations.

The Church (with three aisles and a dome) of the Statos – Agios Photios community was built amongst the small houses of the village, close to the school. It can comfortably host up to 500 faithful. Externally it has a large, asphalt-paved yard. It is made of local stone and has the so-called “louki” (trough, water spout) design. That is, the decorative stone slabs start from way low and all around the temple (1st row), sized 15X15 cm, then comes the next row with larger proportions and it goes on until it externally covers the entire church with slabs of larger size.

The steeple is made of stone, very tall and proud, adjacent to the rest of the building and with three electronic bells. Internally, the church’s floor is covered with marble (from Penteli). The entire temple is covered with hagiographies. Above the chancel there is the representation of “Panagia I Platytera” (referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary) and many other saints. The representations make their presence everywhere, even in the dome there is the scene of the “Pantokratoras” (the Almighty). The known Cypriot hagiographer Kallinikos and also some other Greek professionals have worked on the hagiographies. Also, Georgios Constantinidis, who was a teacher but also does some Hagiography, also worked on them. Georgios Constantinidis was a native of Statos.

The church’s icon screen, which is woodcut and made out of oak wood, has a very strong presence. The added icons surround and complete its strong presence in the temple. The rich and qualitative outfit in the church has made the community feel and be talking with pride for such a special -in the way it is constructed -church. The Saviour’s dedicated icon is at a separate kneeling-desk to the left of the icon screen. During the Saint’s Day on the 6th of August, his holy icon is placed on display for the people to kneel before it and a big fair takes place.

Country church of Agios Photios and Anikitos

The church dedicated to St Photios “kai Anikitos” is built amongst the little houses of the old Agios Photios community. From information that we have gathered, it seems that a long time ago an earlier church was demolished -something that the remains of this old church testify -and the new church that exists today was constructed exactly on that same location. It is a small country church made with common local stones and having a tiled roof. The woodcut icon screen is present, as well as the only existing wooden psalter along with very few seats. It can host up to 200 faithful. It is a flat. little church with a marble floor. It is officiated twice a year. On the 12th of August and on Easter.

Country church of St George in the old village of Agios Photios

“Agios Georgios” is a very old, small church for which we do not have any information reporting on when exactly it was constructed. It is built at the centre of the old village Agios Photios. A small church that is built close to the village’s old elementary school. However, it was fit to drop and abandoned. It did not last long. About 7 years ago (around 1977) it was demolished. Still, the villagers themselves took an initiative so that the oblation to St George would not be lost and the old, nearby, stone-made school was turned into a church. A small, flat, little church with all the necessary utilities for a church, normally functioning as a petit and austere country church dedicated to St George. A liturgy takes place on the 23rd of April.

Country church of Agios Zinovios and Agia Zinovia

Southwest of the old Statos village, the country church of St Zinovios and St Zinovia was constructed in 1840. According to tradition, the two saints were brothers. Saint Zinovios was a miracle-making physician and could heal many patients suffering mentally or physically. The martyred for Christendom and were persecuted. The country church stands in the midst of the old village’s little houses, which have now been abandoned. It is externally made with stone and it is surrounded by a large, paved yard with a short fenced wall. Its steeple, which is a specimen of old architecture, is made with hewed stone. Internally there are two characteristic arches, starting from the roof with a cone-like shape and ending at the middle of the church’s height. The icon screen is woodcut, although characterised by its very old style of cutting. The added icons complete the church’s wealth. It has two woodcut psalters, as well as the priest’s throne.

The women’s loft is a wooden structure of a semicircular shape. With expenses paid by the Holy Monastery of Kykkos, several repairs were done to the country church about 5 years ago. It has a capacity of around 200 faithful. The dedicates, wooden icon of the Saints is on the right of the icon screen, on a stone-made showcase placed upon the wall. During the Saints’ Day on the 30th of October, their Holy icon is put on display for adoration.

Country church of Agia Varvara

On a mountainside and above a water spring, east of the old Statos village, the country church of Saint Varvara is built. It seems that the church was reconstructed in 1921. It is a small country church of the normal square design with a tiled roof. It is whitewashed both internally and externally. The icon screen of the church is made of marble and with the icons of the saints added. It has two gates, the (central) Bema Door and the left gate. Although small, it can comfortably host 150 faithful. Also present are the priest’s throne and the wooden psalters. The dedicated icon of St Varvara dates back to the 18th century and it is placed on a special icon screen. A liturgy takes place in the church twice a year. During the Saint’s day on the 4th of December and on Easter.

Agia Moni Monastery

The Monastery of the Priests (“Monastiri ton Iereon”) -or Agia Marina as it is better known to the wider public -is located in the district of Pafos between the village Statos and the Monastery of Chrysorrogiatissa (Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Gold-Pomegranate), from which it is about one kilometre away. It is built in a beautiful venue that is far away from the hum of the noisy, day-to-day, secular life. In the midst of a verdant environment that is surrounded by thick vegetation, the monks find the sought after quietness -a required precondition for meditation and prayer. The Holy Monastery is considered as one of the most ancient monasteries of Cyprus with a rich history in its record and a significant contribution in the field of spreading the Christian tradition and the Greek letters, mainly during the Byzantine era and especially between the 10th and 12th centuries.

In an effort for revitalisation and revival of its old glamour, it was recently reconditioned and manned by the Holy Monastery of Kykkos, to which it belongs.

Name

There are many interpretations regarding the name of the Monastery Dependency. The most prevalent one relates that many priests lived there in the past. Thus came the name Monastery of the Priests. It was also name Holy Monastery because the faithful that found refuge in this sacred place found the much-desired spiritual exaltation and left from it feeling strengthened by the comforting words and the messages of hope.

The Monastery’s complex

The Monastery of the Priests consists of buildings from various eras, which were shaped according to the needs and capabilities that its occupants had from time to time. A two-storeyed building with the monks’ cells rises in the west side. According to the sign, which is placed on the wall of the left base in the semicircular dome of the main entrance, this structure was ‹‹CONSTRUCTED THROUGH THE DONATION OF THE PRIEST AND MONK MELETIOS, ABBOT OF KYKKOS AND THE MONASTERY OF AX???H (1698)››. During the last renovation (1984-1995) some of the cells were converted to an office, a kitchen, and a dining room.

Towards the north it joins with a two-storeyed building, the basement of which is used as a “Synodikon” and the second floor as a cell. As an extension of the main building, there is a 14th century chapel that is covered with a groined-vault, dedicated to St Athanasios of Mount Athos. Some speculate that it was formerly used as the dinning room of the monastery. It was repaired and maintained in 1964 by the Antiquities Department. It was then that in it a silver coin of the 15th century was discovered in it.

A series of ground-level structures expand in the south side of the Dependency. The sign on their external wall reports that they were raised in 1820 by the nation’s martyr and prior of Kykkos, Josef (1819-1821): ‹‹DURING THE TIMES OF JOSEF, IN THE MOTH OF JULY KB’ PRIOR OF KYKKOS AND MONI››. Three of the above structures were used as a kitchen, a “magkipeio” (kneading room and oven), and a dining room, while the rest as storage areas. Today they have been converted into cells. The overhead level behind them was considered as the most suitable venue for the raising of the abbot’s quarters along with the necessary apartments.

The church of the Dependency, dedicated to St Nicolas, overlooks the east side of the building complex. It has two aisles and is arch-covered (v-shaped roof), having its two aisles separated by arches that are supported by three stone-made columns. The semicircular “synthrono” (row of seats behind the altar) and the apse’s ornamental part with the acanthus leaves, as well as the ornamental part made with acanthuses of the west wall, are some of the extant parts of the church that bear Byzantine features. The same goes for the small pilasters of a paleo-christian icon screen located at the west walls of the monastery’s structures, which are decorated with a plant offspring of flat-relief technique , a fact that leads to the assumption that the church’s construction can be possibly placed in the times of the Byzantine period. The -formerly kept inside the church -marble baptistery was perhaps also of the same era.

In the same area with today’s church, there was a Byzantine church that probably dated back to the 12th century. Various architectural features of the existing church reveal that it must have had a narthex with two apses and that it was built upon the ruins of a paleo-christian basilica, the apse of which it incorporated. With the passage of time and the consequent destruction, a Frank-Byzantine temple replaced the Byzantine one. The latter was configured into a three-aisle, arch-covered church by the -then -prior of Kykkos, Nikiforos, who then became Archbishop of Cyprus (1641-1674). Quite enlightening are the following two extant sings, which are found in the left and right base of the semicircle in the main entrance of the church: ‹‹ BUILT WAS THE HOLY MONASTERY OF THE PRIESTS: I?? HAZE›› and ‹‹NIKIFOR. PRIEST AND MONK, PRIOR OF KYKKOS AND MONI››. Besides, the remains of a fresco in the church are a testimony of and refer to a previous hagiography of it.

About a century after the reconstruction of the church, in 1735, the Russian monk Basil Barsky (1701-1747) visited the Monastery of the Priests. He noted the following regarding the church: ‹‹The east side [of the monastery] is occupied by a beautiful, large church, a solid structure, with large and hard stones, vaulted internally. Externally it is covered with a wooden roof and tiles, just like in the monasteries that I described before. It has a simple icon screen and cheap candlesticks and cresssets because of its poverty but the floor is well paved with large, stone slabs. It has five entrances, three to the west, one in the north, and one in the south››.

With the passage of time the south aisle of the temple suffered severe and irreparable damages and so, in the year 1882, when the Church Steward -and later the metropolitan Bishop of Pafos -Epifanios assumed the completion of the necessary repairs, he was forced to convert the church from one with three aisle into one with two aisles. In 1885, during the course of the renovations, two signs of the 4th century BC were discovered, which were written in the syllabic alphabet and were later incorporated on the external side of the church’s west wall, to the left and to the right of the main entrance where they still are today. In the content of the signs it is mentioned that the king of Pafos, Nikoklis (374/373-361 BC), had constructed a church dedicated to the Goddess Hera in that same area.

Establishment

According to tradition, the Monastery of the Priests was constructed in the 4th century by the Saints Eftychios and Nicolaos, who later became Bishop of Myroi in Lycia. For a long time now, oral narration has maintained that Eftychios supplied the stones, taking them from the pagan temple of the ancient Greek Goddess that was located in the same venue, while Nicolaos – a secular man at the time -was carving them. Afterwards, they were both doing the construction work. However, in the end it was only Eftychios that settled. Lived, and served in the monastery until his death, while Nicolaos left for Lycia. The above tradition was recorded by the literary man, teacher, and principal of the Hellenic School of Nicosia, Efraim the Athenian, who then became Patriarch of Jerusalem (1766-1770), in his book about the history of the Holy Monastery of Kykkos that was published in Venice in 1751. Efraim, prompted by all the relative things he was hearing, decided to visit the Holy Monastery. Inside the vestry he discovered an old membrane-like manuscript with the biography of Saint Eftychios.

Two historical testimonies from the period of the Latin domination in Cyprus (1191-1571) link Saint Eftychios with the Holy Monastery. The first one is traced in the Paris Gr. 1588 Codex, which was written in the Monastery of the Priests in the beginning of the 12th century and contains many notes on various events that occurred between the years 1203 and 1750. Most of them, although they do concern the history of the Monastery, are not enlightening with regards to its historical course and the subject in hand particularly. However, what appears to be quite interesting is the undated entry in page 234, in which the Monastery is mentioned as “that of Saint Eftychios”. The second testimony is of a similar nature. It is found in the “Kronakan” (Chronicle) of Leontios Machairas, although here the name of Saint Eftychios is changed into Efthymios: “and the priests’ monastery of Saint Efthymios”, the annalist remarks.

Furthermore, we know that the memory of Saint Eftychios was “kept alive” in the Holy Monastery at least until the 18th century. On the 8th of August, the Saint’s Day that is, they chanted the following hymn: “Come you faithful, let us commemorate the two leading lights and founders of the monastery, Nicolaos the Great and Eftychios, brave healers of the Mother of our Lord”. Therefore, in this particular case, either the tradition is transferred through the written sources or the written sources tend to confirm the tradition. It is difficult to answer and -unless new, adequate evidence come to light, the disjunctive question will remain unanswered.

Courtesy of the Community Council of Statos – Agios Photios