Located in the mountains of Kionia (about 40 km from the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia) you will find the Machairas Monastery or Panagia Machaira overlooking the slopes on the valley of Machairas Mountain. The monasteries name comes from the Greek word ‘Μαχαίρι’ which mean knife. It was given this name due to the history behind how they came to find the hidden icon of the Virgin Mary.
So, according to history it was said that an unknown hermit brought over to Cyprus an icon painted by Luke the Apostle. The icon was of the Virgin Mary and he had hidden it in a cave on the mountain. In 1145, two other hermits stumbled upon this cave but they had to machete their way in. This is how the name Machairas came to be. Since they needed to cut the thick plant growth in order to make a passage to get into the cave. This is also how they named the icon; Machairiotissa.
The monastery is found at an altitude of 870 meters above sea level and was given ownership of the whole mountain. It was built in the 12th century and then enlarged in the 13th century by the monk Neilos. He was actually the first Abbot of the monastery and then later became Bishop of Tamassos.
Over the years the monastery received many grants and so became very rich. Actually, Machairas is one of the three Royal monasteries in Cyprus along with Kykkou and Agiou Neophytou. All three had been given privileges during the Byzantine era.
Unfortunately, there was a huge fire in 1530 and then again in 1892 which completely destroyed the monastery. But with the help of donations from the Russian Empire they were able to reconstruct the building.
There is also a museum found next to the monastery as also the statue of Grigoris Afxentiou. The museum is dedicated to Grigoris Afxentiou who was a fighter for the Independence of Cyprus from the British rule. Below the Monastery there is also a a huge bronze statue of the memorial to Grigoris Afxentiou.
The architecture of the monastery is a simple rectangle shaped building with a red-tiled timber roof. There are also buildings for the monk’s quarters which are built around the church. There are currently 20-30 Orthodox Monks in this establishment who all live off of the agricultural activities they have.
On the 21st of November the monastery celebrates the Virgin Mary but the you can visit all year round. Usually between 10:00am and 17:00pm but be sure to check before you go. Entrance is free but you are not allowed to take photos or videos. You must be covered up to enter as it is a religious place.