Holy Monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats on Cyprus; Shutterstock ID 1399043288;

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Holy Monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats


This monastery was founded in AD 327 by the first Byzantine governor of Cyprus, Kalokeros, and patronised by St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. A delightful small chapel here dating from the 13th century has noteworthy icons painted by the two original nuns in residence. The actual monastery building has received a modern (and somewhat bland) refurbishment. You can buy the sisters’ preserves, jams, honey and sweets, plus bags of oranges when in season.

There’s a curious story behind the monastery’s name. At the time of construction, the Akrotiri Peninsula, and indeed the whole of Cyprus, was in the grip of a severe drought and was overrun with poisonous snakes, so building a monastery was fraught with practical difficulties. A large shipment of cats was therefore brought in from Egypt and Palestine to combat the reptilian threat. A bell would call the cats to meals and the furry warriors would then be dispatched to fight the snakes. These days, the many cats you’ll find snoozing in the shade of the monastery colonnades far outnumber the handful of solitary sisters who now look after the place.

Positioned on the edge of the salt lake with its back to the Sovereign Base Area (SBA) fence, the monastery can be reached by a good dirt road from Akrotiri or via a not-so-obvious route west from Lady’s Mile Beach.

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