What a great day out discovering yet another one of Cyprus’s hidden gems. The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the cats is possibly the oldest on the island and fits into a great day out sightseeing some historic Cyprusattractions in the area just west of Limassol. Saint Nicholas of the cats was built sometime during the 14th Century by Saint Helena mother of the then Emperor Constantine who built many other Monasteries all over Cyprus following her visit to the Holy land. It derives it’s name from the hundreds of cats that live in and around the Monastery grounds. The cats are said to be direct descendants of the thousands of felines introduced by an army commander called Kalokeros at the instruction of Emperor Constantine sometime during the 14th Century. around that time the Island was suffering a severe drought. Apparently snakes and vermin became such a big problem that the inhabitants fled the cape area until the cats were introduced to keep them down.
According to the writings of a visiting monk of the times the cats would answer to a bell and come running in from the fields to be fed. their modern day ancestors however seem to spend most of their day sunning themselves in the private grounds of the Monastery. They appear to be well fed on food donated by the steady flow of visitors who seem able to find the Monastery despite the total lack of information available to tourist concerning its fascinating history. From what I could gather the elderly nuns that live in the building seem happy enough to open the church to visitors on request but visitors are not allowed into the inner courtyard. This is a bit of a shame because that’s where most of the cats were hanging out on the day we visited.
According to tradition Saint Helena left pieces of wood from the original cross of Jesus in many of the Monasteries she built on the island. however the place lay derelict from as far back as the 16th Century until 1980 when it was extensively renovated and it is now run as a convent by the four nuns. As a tourist attraction Saint Nicholas of the cats must be one of the most under exploited locations in Southern Cyprus. most people have heard of the cats of Cyprus and there is an abundance of merchandising sold around Cyprus cats. however there is no coffee shop nor any Cyprus cat souvenirs to be seen anywhere. Maybe its something to do with church policy all though I would very much doubt it considering the proliferation of tat that is offered to visitors at some of the other religious attractions in Cyprus, As for the toilets. well, just don’t ask because even by Cypriot standards they leave rather a lot to be desired. (I’ll leave it at that)
Having said all that it is still a great place to visit (unless you are desperate for a pee) and the cats are really adorable. I have seen some recent video on Utube showing visitors feeding them in the front courtyard so I guess its down to when you visit. We did the trip in January so maybe the kitties don’t expect too many visitors at the time of year and stick closer to the sisters who dole out the food. to find the Monastery just head for Kolosi Castle which is off the main Limassol to Paphos highway. once there keep along that road until you are just outside the RAF Akrotiri military base at the top of Akrotiri village and the Monastery is signposted off to the left.
Some how it became natural to believe that Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas are one and the same person. you maybe surprised to learn that Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas do not have that much in common after all. unfortunately in English and some other languages their name may seam similar, but in many cultures the person of Santa Claus is called by the names that do not resemble name Nicholas in any way. There is strong tendency in our society to identify Saint Nicholas with Santa Claus, as a complimentary to each other, this is particularly true about commercialized western society. In order to separate the truth about Saint Nicholas from the myth of Santa Clause we need to take a closer look into the history.
Who was Saint Nicholas and why did he become so popular? one very important element that separates Saint Nicholas from his counter part is the fact that he was a real person who was born and lived in Minor Asia, and not in an imaginary land or country of the North Pole. Saint Nicholas was born in the city of Patara, on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula. At a very young age he became a bishop in the church and history recorded him to participate in First Ecumenical Council. This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith, it was also during this council that Saint Nicholas stood against heretical teaching of man named Arius, along the with other famous fathers of this Council as Saint Sylvester of Rome and Alexander of Alexandria.
But it was his live and generosity that made him so famous and so loved by many in the Christian church. during his life and more so after his death Saint Nicholas was known to perform many miracles which ranged form helping poor to saving lives of sailors. because of his great generosity a tradition would develop where Saint Nicholas would come to visit children on the eve of his feast day (December 19, or December 6 of Julian calendar) bringing presents.
Who is Santa Claus? Unlike the figure of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus has it roots in a Dutch legend and did not gain in popularity until parts of Europe were affected by Reformation and Protestant movement. due to the fact that Reformation had refused to continue with the churches believes and tradition, it was unacceptable to continue the tradition of a Saint visiting little children. but the fame of Saint Nicholas was so strong that even with his name has to be incorporated into the the personality of a new fable in order have any success. It is in this form that the Santa Claus had arrived to the United states with Dutch immigrants.