Just outside of Paphos town is the place where a holy man called Neophytos decided to spend his days as a recluse, this was after he had experienced a vision from God where he was told to go on a spiritual journey, somewhere where he could meditate and be at one with his maker.
In 1159 he found the perfect place set high on a hill overlooking Paphos, and this is the remarkable bit, this man all alone, and using only very basic tools carved out a home from the sheer hard rock face that surrounded the area. His cave eventually became a hermitage, and here he stayed alone for over a decade until the Bishop of Paphos asked him to take on fellow priests and give them religious instruction.
Neophytos did as he was asked and slowly over time the building of a monastery close to the hermits cave was also completed, both still stand today and visitors can now visit both the cave and the monastery, with both delighting the eye as they also show us some rather marvellous examples of 12th and 13th mural paintings. The cave walls are covered in these and are what we would today describe as a form of excellent religious wallpaper, one can easily imagine the Saint lying down on his stone bed and being able to turn his head to admire all the beautiful scenes from the life of Christ which cover the cave walls.
The Icon painter who created these images in both the cave and monastery was Theodore Apsevd a man described as being a master of this type of religious art, and because the cave was so dark and rarely received any sun, the images today still shine with the true colours used all those years ago when first created. One word of warning though for tall people, or those with a slight problem being in confined spaces, the cave is not large, meaning those with some height will have to bend so they don’t knock their heads on the roof, but both places are really well worth the visit.
Oh! And if you think the saint just spent his days lying around meditating you would be wrong he worked for over 60 years reading, also writing his own books so that today he is now recognised as one the key authors of the medieval period in Cyprus.