Machairas Monastery (Cyprus)
Machairas Monastery, (Greek: Μαχαιράς), one of the principal monasteries of the Church of Cyprus, was founded late in the twelfth century. Machairas Monastery, meaning "Monastery of the Knife", is the home of the icon Panagia of Machairas.
By tradition the founding of the monastery was the result of the finding in 1145 of the icon of the Virgin Mary painted by the Apostle Luke by two hermits, Neophytos and Ignatius, who came upon the icon hidden in a cave. Traditionally, the icon had been hidden there earlier by an unknown monk to escape its destruction during the iconoclastic era. The name, Machairas, given to the area and the monastery, came from the knife or sword (Greek: μαχαίρι Makhaira) that the monks found before the cave and which they used to free the icon.
Machairas Monastery was founded, in 1148, by two monks, Neophytos and Ignatius, on the eastern foothills of the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, twenty-five miles south of the city of Nicosia. After the death of Neophytos, Ignatius accompanied, by the monk Propokius, traveled to Constantinople in 1172 to plead for financial assistance from the emperor, Manuel I Komnenos. Succeeding in their quest, the monastery was granted ownership of the entire mountain and given the status of stavropegion which made it independent of the local bishop, the Bishop of Tamasia. The monks built a small church that early in the thirteenth century was enlarged by the first abbot of the monastery, Neilos.
After the Latin conquest of Cyprus and expulsion of the Orthodox bishops in 1222, by Pope Honorius III, the monastery lost most of its property and was reduced to destitution. In 1571, the Ottoman Turks conquered Cyprus, ending the Latin rule. The fortunes of the monastery did not improve, however, until the eighteenth century under the monk Parthenios. Ottoman rule ended with the acquisition of Cyprus by the British in 1878.
The original monastery buildings were built in the twelfth century. The monastery was destroyed in a fire in 1530 and rebuilt. The monastery church was renovated in 1697 under abbot Leontius II. During the Greek War for independence, the Turks seized and sold a large part of the monastery property after the mass executions of Cypriots, including key clergy, on July 9, 1821, at the start of the Greek War of Independence. The present monastery was built in the early twentieth century after the earlier one was destroyed in a disastrous fire on September 5, 1892.
The frescoes of the church are of recent origin. Those in the main part of the church were painted by Charalambos and Panagiotis Voulgaris in 1993, and the mosaics in front of the church are by Arestis Stasis.