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Monastery of saint Neophytos the Recluse Toumpouri, Marina


Saint Neophytos was born in 1134 in Cyprus. He was tonsured at the Monastery of saint Chrysostom Koutsoventis (Cyprus). Following a great deal of wanderings, in 1159 he found a cave in the mountains of Paphos (near the present-day village of Tala) where he was settled and lived until the end of his life (ca. 1214) as a recluse. By 1160 Neophytos widened the original cave (the Enkleistra) and removed the insecure parts, he set up an altar, dedicated to the Holy Cross, and excavated a tomb, in which he was buried after his death. By 1170 Neophytos was a well-known hermit, so at the instigation of the bishop of Paphos Basil Kinnamos, he accepted priesthood and founded a monastery, for which he composed a set of rules (“Typiki Diathiki”) for its administration. Following this decision, the cave was extended for the creation of cells and the refectory. In 1183 was created the naos. As indicated by the inscription in the cell written by the well-known painter Theodoros Apseudis, another part of the cell and the tomb chamber were decorated under the patronage of Basil Kinnamos, between 1182 and 1183. The frescoes covered the original, simple, white ground fresco decoration. Apart from the scene of the Annunciation, the rest of the Christological scenes from this phase of decoration, belong to the Passion cycle. The rest of the walls are covered with representations of monastic saints holding scrolls, on which are written didactic passages. The fact that saint Neophytos was depicted twice in the program could indicate that he was the person who determined it, instead of the patron, Basil Kinnamos. By the end of 1197 was completed the so-called “New Zion”, a cave above the initial cell of the Enkleistra, dug and named thus by Neophytos, who was constantly longing for solitude. After Neophytos moved to the upper cell, the iconostasis was inserted, and the naos was decorated with more monastic saints by another painter. Around 1200 the refectory was decorated by a different painter. After the saint’s death, the monastic community continued to exist. Around 1500 the narthex was remodelled and decorated, and the refectory was partially repainted. In 1503 the paintings in the naos and the bema have been partially restored. In the early 16th century, in the vicinity of the Enkleistra was built the new katholikon (main church) of the monastery, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is a three-aisled basilica ending in a large apse to the east. The lateral aisles are divided from the central nave by colonnades. The nave and the aisles are barrel-vaulted. The nave vault is interrupted before the sanctuary by a dome on high drum. The doorway on the west wall, as well as the plain lancet windows follow Gothic models. The church was entirely decorated with frescoes, a large part of which was destroyed. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the relics of Neophytos were translated to the church, where they are housed until today. Around the Enkleistra and the katholikon of the Monastery were erected in different periods auxiliary buildings including cells for the monks, the refectory, a library, a museum etc.

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Attribution 4.0 International