July 1727

We left on July 3, bound again for Larnaca and the port of Alikas, from where it is only a walk of about four hours to the monastery of the Holy Cross, situated on a high mountain.

We decided that we would make the effort to go worship there, but my companion reneged. So one day I went there by myself, made the appropriate veneration, and spent three days there and visited in the company of the hegumen of this monastery the dependencies of the monastery. What is known about the monastery is the following: At the same time when the empress Saint Helena, after having obtained in Jerusalem the Life-Giving Cross of Our Lord, was returning to Constantinople, before landing in Cyprus she saw the high mountain from the distance while still at sea, and wished to ascend it and to visit it. The place was pleasing to her, and she founded the church of the Erection of the True Cross and a small monastery, because the space on top of the mountain was very narrow.

Barskij's drawing of the Monastery of Stavrovouni

She erected a huge wooden cross about a sazhen in height, and deposited in it a sizeable fragment of the wood from Christ’s cross, which she donated for the benediction of the monastery. To the present day the True Life-Giving Cross and prayers protect this monastery.

Holy Cross with fragment of holy wood (© Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni)

This monastery does not have many buildings, except for the church, which is spacious in length and breadth, low in height, but attractive. On top it has two small domes, and on the inside it is supported on six pillars. Although it originally had three altars, now the liturgy is only celebrated on the central one. There are very few monastic cells, only about four or five, and these are built attached to the church.

Although the place is very beautiful and pleasant, it is silent, isolated, and cold, and because of its height there are always winds when there are none below.

Only two monks remain there continuously for the sake of church chant; the rese are at the monastery’s dependencies at the bottom of the mountain. This is because on top there is nothing, only dry stone and barren earth, and what is even worse, there is no water, so from the rain they collect water for drinking. At the foot of the mountain, at a distance of about a mile, there flows a spring called Agiasma of the Holy Cross. Its water is very healthy, particularly from the infirm, but the path for carrying the water from there up to the mountain is difficult.

At the foot of the mountain, to the west, there is a dependent monastery of the main one called Saint Barbara, because its church is dedicated to the great martyr Saint Barbara. The church, like the monastery itself, is large. A few monks live there, and this is where all of the food and drink of the monastery is stored, and from here they carry whatever is required to the monastery above. I worshipped at this monastery the true and life-giving wood and stayed here for three days (also visiting the other dependencies of the monastery), and then rejoined my traveling companion. 

Barskij's drawing of the Monastery of Stavrovouni
Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni, early 20th c. (© Press and Information Office)
Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni, early 20th c. (© Press and Information Office)

Stavrovouni 1972


© "Digital Herodotus" - CyBC. Used with permission.
  • Stavrovouni Monastery - europeana

  • G. Jeffery, A description of the historic monuments of Cyprus