Ayia Napa is one of the most famous places in Cyprus; the reasons behind this statement, simply vary. It could be its incredible beaches, its nightlife- especially in summertime- as well as its astonishing natural heritage. All the coins have two sides and so does Ayia Napa. Apart from being one of the best summer destinations of the world, Ayia Napa has a cultural heritage that counts so far more than four centuries. So let’s start this article, by introducing some of the must-visit cultural sites of the beautiful Ayia Napa.
Ayia Napa is part of the Ammochostos district, since it is located at the south part of it. The name of the place means the "Saint of the forest" and there is an interesting story behind it. Around the 11th century, there was a hunter with his dog in the forest, hunting a rabbit. Miraculously, the rabbit disappeared in front of the hunter’s eyes, but his dog kept chasing it, even inside a cave. The hunter was worried about the dog and he followed its barking till the entrance of the cave. When he finally entered the cave, he found a lit icon of the Virgin Maria. It is believed that this icon has been hidden there during the Byzantine Empire, in order to be protected from iconoclasts. As a result, later on, the place was named after the icon of the Virgin.
The monastery of Ayia Napa is located in the middle of the village and it was built in 1500 A.C. A part of the building is underground, while another part is built on a rock. The monastery has several entrances. The main entrance is located in the south part and it is the simplest one, where no murals or a specific style can be identified. In the north part of the monastery, that drives you to the main square of the village, a second entrance can be found. An impressive mural can be admired in it.
The monastery was initially accessible only to women and it has kept this identity during the Ottoman period; however this has changed in 1668, when it was transformed into a men's monastery. Actually, the monastery didn't have any permanent monks till the late 17th century, since it was built in an inhabited area. In the middle of the 18th century, the first habitants arrived from the city of Thesaloniki and decades later the monastery was entirely "fixed". The monastery "survived" without an organised community of monks, whereupon its fields were rented to local farmers, who were also being used for the needs of the community.
The monastery of Ayia Napa was sooner or later announced as the main church and became a pilgrimage spot of the island. The church was a meeting point for Christians till 2006, while after that date the church was under the command of the Metropolis. Nowadays, the monastery houses a museum in its facilities. With the increase of the population of the village in 1990, an important decision was taken; constructing a new church at the southwest part of the monastery, which would be again dedicated to the Virgin. And so it happened.
While in the area, it is definitely worth visiting Ayia Napa's cultural heritage and admire its astonishing monastery that stands there for centuries, as reminder of the island's miraculous, great history.
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