|The ornament and true pride & joy of Omodos
is the Monastery of the Holy and Life-giving Cross,
built at the heart of the community. It rises majestically
and with its imposing presence it becomes a significant
part of Cyprus's cultural heritage. The Monastery
of the Holy Cross is one of the oldest and most
historic monasteries of the island.
According to tradition, one night the inhabitants
of the neighbouring villages Pano (Upper) and
Kato (Lower) Koupetra, which do not exist today,
observed a fire in some bushes at the area where
the monastery stands today. When it dawned they
went to the spot where the fire was seen but there
was no sign. This phenomenon repeated for several
nights. So they started to dig the earth, discovering
a small cave in which they found the Cross. In
order to thank the Lord, they constructed a chapel
over the cave and kept their precious treasure
there, which became a sacred place of adoration
for them. With the passage of time the chapel
expanded and was converted into a Monastery with
many monks and a vast fortune -not only in Cyprus
but also abroad - maintaining a grange (monastery
dependency) in Constantinople (Istanbul) and real
estate in Russia.
According to tradition, the Monastery was established
before St. Helen's arrival in Cyprus in 327 AD.
The exact date of establishment is unknown. Perhaps
it existed before the village and Omodos was later
established around the monastery. Various historians
of Cyprus such as Neofytos Rodinos, the Russian
monk and traveller Barsky, the Dean Kyprianos
and others, refer to St. Helen's visit to Cyprus
and to the fact that she left a part of the Holy
Rope and the Holy Rood in the Monastery. This
rope, with which the Romans bound Christ to the
Cross, is described as red coloured and "stained
by the blood of Christ".
After several miracles by the Cross, the Monastery
gained substantial reputation and evolved to a
great place of adoration. The historical Monastery
of Omodos has gone through various phases as the
aeons went by. During the harsh centuries of Turkish
domination, the Monastery managed to sustain itself
and achieve great things. Around 1700 it secured
a sultan's "firman" (decree) of impunity
and immunity. In 1757 water was transferred to
the monastery and the cistern and fountain, found
in the south-west end of the monastery, were built
by the priest-monk Germanos. In 1917 the entire
property of the monastery was given to Omodos's
inhabitants. A few years later it was deprived
of its last monks and was converted to a parish.
The Bishop of Pafos, Chrysanthos, did a full
renovation of the Monastery in the second decade
of the 19th century, in collaboration with the
Steward of the Monastery, Dositheos, who served
as a church Steward from 1810 until 1821. In 1816,
according to the sign found over the entrance
of the monastery's Synodicon, the west wing and
the west part of the north wing were constructed.
The height of the rooms and the arches of the
two-level gallery is greater than that of the
north wing. The west wing is the most important
one. According to the sign, the reconstruction
was done "through the charitableness of the
pious and very laborious Stewart Dositheos ".
In 1817 the -inlaid with gold -icon screen of
the church was made. The great Synodicon and the
other halls and corridors of the Monastery were
decorated with woodcut items that are splendid
woodcraft examples of the Rococo style. Especially
interesting is the window of the Synodicon's entrance
that is found in the ceiling, in the north end
of the west wing. Both the line of arches' parapets
and the windows are made out of small bits of
wood, adjusted in such a manner so as to form
elaborate gratings. The leafs also are made out
of small pieces of wood with chisels so as to
leave the impression of elaborate relief.
However, the most important specimen of woodcraft
is the ceiling of the synodicon, the -so called
-Throne of the Cross, which covers the eastern
wall of the synodicon. These fretwork items are
the most important ones that are extant in Cyprus.
The bell that is preserved until today is a gift
by Dositheos from 1812 and is the first bell that
rang in Cyprus during the years of Turkish enslavement.
The aid, however, that the Monastery offered to
the "Filiki Heteria" (Society of Friends)
for the Great Greek Uprising of 1821 proved fatal
for the Monastery and for Dositheos. The Turks
decapitated the Steward Dositheos, along with
other clergymen and laymen, on the 10th of July
1821 in Nicosia.
In 1850 a renovation of the Church, which expanded
on its two sides taking its present form, took
The Monastery's architecture is characteristic.
It is a huge, two-levels complex in the shape
of (the Greek letter) Ð that encircles the church
in the north, west, and south with its tall cells
and the vaulted arches.
One can enter the yard through a vaulted entrance,
the so-called "kamaroporta" (arched
door), which is found in the north side. Tradition
reports that the arched door, which resembles
that of a fortress, with its heavy, double crossbars,
would not open when Turks who intended to harm
the monastery would arrive. The west entrance
that today exists in the part of the plaza was
The complex is consisted of many stone-made cells,
cellars, and hostels/hospices. The lace-like balusters
under the arches of the roofed verandas, in the
interior side of the constructions, have a very
In the fenced yard a marble-made fountain refreshes
the visitors. Upon a plate, dating back to 1763,
the words "come to me you that are thirsty,
like Siloam the fountain I will also quench your
thirst" are inscribed. The large temple with
three aisles of the Monastery, which is of the
Basilica type, is built -according to local tradition
-precisely above the cave where the holy Cross
The golden & chiseled icon screen of the
Church, created in 1817, with the case of the
Holy Cross and the ancient icons of Russian style,
is of great importance.
A special work of art are the wooden ceilings,
which decorate the corridors and the halls of
the Monastery. They are amazing specimens of -Rococo
style -woodcraft, made with admirable artistry
out of thousands of very small pieces of wood
that are harmonically matched.
Even more remarkable is the Synodicon with its
wonderful ceiling and the throne of the Holy Cross,
which is chiseled upon walnut wood and come into
view as a true masterpiece. With the two-headed
eagle towering above, the throne also serves as
a crypt for the Holy Cross. Even the four couches
that are preserved, made out of woodcut walnut,
present a special beauty.
Today the hall of the Synodicon is an ancient
monument. The other halls today house the Museum
of Byzantine icons, the Museum of Folkloric Art,
the picture gallery, a photo exhibition with old
and new photos, and the 1955-1959 Struggle Museum
-the first one to be made after the Epic Struggle.
In it are kept many materials, personal items,
uniforms, documents, and photographs of the fighters.
There are invaluable relics in the Monastery of
the Holy Cross that have made it reputable throughout
the world. Some of them are:
Cross with the Holy Rope. It is a wooden
Cross with a gold & silver-plated cover,
placed in a special canopy at the icon screen
of the temple. Its surface is decorated by
various depictions from the life of Christ.
In the four ends of the Cross are the four
Evangelists. At the centre of the Cross, within
an area sheltered by a golden wicket that
opens and closes, the "AGIOS CANNAVOS"
(Holy Hemp-made Rope), which is also called
"AGIO SCHINIO" (Holy Rope). It is
a piece from the rope that the Romans used
to fasten Christ upon the Cross and it is
the only extant one in the world.
||A second Cross that -according
to Costas Nicolaides -in it "is the little
Cross enclosed", which is the one originally
found inside the cave.
||The Cross of the "Panaretos" (the all virtuous one). This is the old Cross
of Anogyra. This Cross is very old and was
kept in the mediaeval monastery of the Holy
Cross outside the village Anogyra. During
troublesome times the Cross was transferred
to the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Omodos,
where it is still kept until today, for safekeeping.
||The skull of Apostle
Philip is kept in a gold and silver-plated
case that is shaped like a pyramid. The authenticity
of the skull is witnessed by the seals of
the Byzantine Emperors Theodosius the Great
and Heraclius. The Holy Relic of Orthodoxy
was kept in Constantinople until July 31st,
1204. After the city's capture by the Franks
it was transferred for safekeeping to the
village Arsinoe of the Pafos district. A little
after 1735 the case was stolen and in 1770
it was replaced by the one that is extant
until today, at the expenditure of the -then
-Metropolitan Bishop of Pafos, Panaretos.
For greater safety the case with the Apostle's
skull was transferred to the Holy Temple of
the Holy Cross in Omodos before 1788.
||Wooden Cross with
a height of 15 centimetres and decorated with
precious stones. The excellent joinery artistry
that it presents causes admiration.
||Fragment of a stone
from the horrid Golgotha (Calvary) that
was secured after an initiative of church
steward Kallistrates Papademas.
||Many other items including
holy vessels, remains of 26 Saints, precious
jewels and other offerings.