Barskij's drawing of the Monastery of Stavrovouni

The exhibition has the written travel accounts of the Russian monk Vasilij Gregorovich
Barskij (Basil Grigorovitch Barsky) as a focal point. With the use of an interactive map, the visitor can follow Barskij’s path to places, monasteries and churches linked to the Holy Cross, which he visited during his travels through Cyprus in the 18th century.

Barskij was born in Kyiv in 1701.

At the age of 15, he entered the Academy of Kyiv, yet a few years later he abandoned his studies. In 1723 he left Kyiv and began his journeys. When in Venice, he resided in the Greek church of Saint George and started learning Greek.

His aspiration was the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His path brought him to Greece and to Mount Athos, where he stayed until 1726. In the same year, he managed to go to Jerusalem.

In September 1726 the ship he was in, having Palestine as its destination, approached Cyprus for supplies and the disembarkation of passengers. Barskij stayed on the island “for one and a half days,” left a brief description and carried on with his journey to Palestine, wishing to reach Mount Sinai.

In April 1727, the ship carrying him from Jerusalem to Damietta was caught in a sea storm and landed in Cyprus, Limassol.

He considered it to be a will of God: “I realized that as God had brought me to a place where I did not intend to go, he was demanding that I express appropriate veneration for the holy sites which are found on Cyprus.” He remained on the island until July 1727 and visited towns, villages, churches and monasteries, which he described in his travelogue and illustrated in ink drawings.

He visited Cyprus for the third time in 1730 when his ship docked at Famagusta, and from Limassol left for Egypt.

In 1733, while in Antioch, he became acquainted with the Cypriot Patriarch Silvester, who ordained him deacon and later, in 1734, monk.

Being the widely known Russian monk Vasilios, who was travelling under the auspices of Patriarch Silvester, he returned to Cyprus in 1734, again incidentally, while in search of a ship to continue his journey from Tripoli to Patmos.

In Cyprus, as elsewhere in the past, Barskij depended on the donations and material assistance largely provided by monasteries. In the short time he resided in Nicosia, he acted as an instructor of the Latin language in the Greek School established by Archbishop Philotheos (1734-1759).

He remained in Cyprus until 1736, travelled through the entire island and recorded his travels in detail, providing information about orthodox monasteries and churches operating in Cyprus at the time, also drawing full-page sketches of several of them.

When visiting a place connected with the Holy Cross, he follows his usual way for describing it; he refers to its geography and location, provides a detailed description of the buildings, records information about its foundation and history, and its condition during his times, the period of Ottoman rule. A particular reference is made to their association with Saint Helen, the Holy Cross and other relics.

Surpassing many obstacles, Barskij returned to Kyiv in 1747, after being away for 24 years. He died on October 7, 1747.

Barskij's graffiti inscription, church of Panagia tou Araka, Lagoudera, 1735

He composed an extensive account of his travels, without a title, widely referred to as The travels of Vasyl Hryhorocyč-Bars’kyj in the holy lands of the East.

The account was published for the first time in an abridged version in a single volume in 1778 and was reprinted several times. An improved edition in four volumes was published by Nikolai Barsukov (1885-1887), which included Bars’kyj’s drawings, 18 of which of places and monasteries in Cyprus.

The chapters concerning Cyprus were translated and published with annotations by Andreas Stylianou in the eleventh volume of the journal Κυπριακαὶ Σπουδαί, under the title Αἱ περιηγήσεις τοῦ Ρώσσου μοναχοῦ Βασιλείου Γρηγόροβιτς Βάρσκυ ἐν Κύπρῳ. In 1994 Andros Pavlidis published the text in the second volume of his work Η Κύπρος ανά τους αιώνες μέσα από τα κείμενα ξένων επισκεπτών της. In 1996 the text was published, based on Bars’kyj’s autograph manuscript preserved in Kyiv, with an English translation and notes, by Alexander D. Grishin, in the monograph A pilgrim’s account of Cyprus: Bars’kyj’s travels in Cyprus, as the third volume of the series Sources for the history of Cyprus.

Grishin's English translation is reproduced on the website.