St. Neophytos Monastery
The Saint Neophytos Monastery or in Greek, Iera Moni Agiou Neophytou, is located 9 kilometers to the west of Paphos town. The monastery which was founded by the monk Neophytos in the 12th century currently houses a museum and a chapel which is built in a natural cave. Saint Neophytos pursued an ascetic lifestyle in the hills of Cyprus and found a small natural cave in this location in 1159. He excavated the cave to include his cell, a small chapel, and his eventual tomb. His table is sculptured from rock and the stone platform on which he slept as well as his grave, are still preserved in his cell. He soon accumulated followers and the area soon became a quiet monastic community in 1170, housing up to 18 monks. After the monk Neophytos died, at the age of 85 in 1219, he was buried within the Egleistra according to his own wishes. The 'Egleistra', which is an enclosure carved out of the mountain by the hermit, contains some of the finest Byzantine frescoes dating from the 12th century. The monastery is located in a quiet and beautiful mountainous area which is close to the town of Tala, Paphos.
The monastery was later expanded with major additions added by another monk with the same name in 1503. Several original art pieces, as well as new icons, were added and they can still be seen today. The monastery is still inhabited by monks who preserve the history and original artwork. The original enclosure of St. Neophytos consists of three parts, the church of the True Cross, the Refectory and the cell. All three sections are carved into the steep rock face of the mountain. The main church of the monastery is covered with original wall paintings that represent different periods of history. This large, Venetian inspired basilica which was built in the early 16th century stands as the church today. The monastery also houses a museum which is very interesting and showcases many icons and manuscripts that depict the history of the monastic community through the centuries. The remains of Saint Neophytos lie in a sarcophagus and his skull in a silver casket within the church.
The stunning frescoes in the main church are unique and there is one that depicts the Saint Neophytos alongside the archangels Michael and Gabriel at the very top of the ceiling. The monastery has a direct link to Byzantine style fine art and the church also contains some of the finest Post-Byzantine icons from the 16th century. On the eastern wing of the monastery, you will find a designated area where important treasures are kept. There is an ancient collection of pottery dating back to the Geometric and Archaic period (900 – 600 BC) and a collection of religious art dating back to the 12th century. This includes old icons, sacred vessels, manuscripts, books, and vestments.
The monastery has a lot of parking for buses and private vehicles and there is a quaint coffee shop that serves light refreshments and snacks. On arrival, you will receive a brochure which is available in Greek, English, German, French, and Russian. This brochure describes the history of the monastery with all the facilities available. There is also a gift shop at the main entrance to the monastery where you can buy some souvenirs and traditional products from the area. An interesting feature is that the monastery has free internet for all visitors. The monastery is a popular tourist attraction and is also visited by locals regularly. The monastery does have modern toilet facilities but most of the area is not wheelchair friendly. Bear in mind that there is a small charge of €2 for entry to the museum and caves.
It is very easy to reach the monastery from Paphos, once you go through the town you will reach the Mesogi Road which will take you to the Tremithousa turn off which leads directly to the monastery. There are signs all the way and you cannot miss it. Contact details for more information are as follows:
Tel: +357 26 652 481
Opening and closing times, as well as entrance fees, are subject to alterations without notice. Visitors are advised to check before visiting.