Neophytos of Cyprus

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Neophytos of Cyprus, Saint Neophytos, Neophytos the Recluse (1134–1214) was a Cypriot Orthodox monk, priest, and sometime hermit, whose writings preserved history of the early crusades. "He is considered to be one of the most significant figures of the Church of Cyprus"[1]


Neophytos was born in the mountain village of Kato Drys near Lefkara, Cyprus, to farming parents Athanasios and Eudoxia,[2] one of eight children. His religious interests came to the fore when the arranged marriage planned by his parents ended with his fleeing to the Monastery of Saint John Chrysostomos in Koutsovendis.[3]

After much ado, the marriage contracts were broken and Neophytos went back to the monastery as a novice, becoming a tonsured monk in 1152.[4] During this time he learned to read and write and was eventually appointed as assistant sacristan.[5] Although Neophytos felt called to be a hermit, his abbot declined to let him go, citing his youth.[4]

In 1158, however, Neophytos was allowed to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While he was there he sought out hermits who might sponsor him, but to no avail. He returned to Cyprus, but still wanted to pursue the hermitic life. He tried to escape to Mt. Latmos in Asia Minor, but was arrested at Paphos upon his attempted embarkation.[6] He was shortly released from prison, but the guards had stolen his travel funds, so, in June 1159, he went to the hilly area above Paphos, where he found a cave that had been used by a previous hermit. He enlarged the space, eventually creating three caves known today as the Cell, the Bema and the Naos.[7]

Neophytos's life as a hermit attracted the religious in the area who brought him food and gifts. His air of sanctity brought many to visit him, and in 1170 Vasilios (Basil) Kinnamos, the Bishop of Paphos, ordained him as a priest and required him to take a disciple, which started the monastery which now bears his name.


Saint Neophytos Monastery was named in his honor.


  1. ^ "The Engleistra (Place of Seclusion) and the Monastery of Agios Neophytos", Republic of Cyprus, Department of Antiquities
  2. ^ Eudoxia was her assumed name as a nun in her later life. (Galatariotou)
  3. ^ Galatariotou, Catia (2002) The Making of a Saint: The Life, Times and Sanctification of Neophytos the Recluse Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, page 13, ISBN 978-0-521-52188-8
  4. ^ a b Galatariotou (2002) page 14
  5. ^ Kakoulli, Ioanna and Fischer, Christian (2009) "An innovative noninvasive and nondestructive multidisciplinary approach for the technical study of the Byzantine wall paintings in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Paphos, Cyprus" Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC; archived here by Internet Archive on 24 November 2010
  6. ^ Kakoulli (2009) indicates that the sources do not state the basis for his arrest. But Galatariotou (2002) indicates that it was because he was mistaken for a fugitive.
  7. ^ The complex also includes the Narthex and the Refectory found adjacent to the principal caves as well as the Skevophylakion, the Ayiastyrion (which is the room for St. Neophytos sanctification and holy attendance) and the New Zion located above the Narthex and the Naos. Kakoulli (2009)

Further reading[edit]

  • Coureas, Nicholas (2003) The foundation rules of medieval Cypriot monasteries: Makhairas and St. Neophytos Cyprus Research Centre, Nicosia, Cyprus, ISBN 978-9963-0-8080-9
  • Englezakis, Benedict (1995) Studies on the History of the Church of Cyprus, 4th–20th Centuries (translated from Modern Greek by Norman Russell) Variorum, Aldershot, Hampshire, England, ISBN 978-0-86078-486-9
  • Epstein, Ann Wharton (1981) "Formulas for Salvation: A Comparison of Two Byzantine Monasteries and their Founders" Church History 50(4): pp. 385–400, doi:10.2307/3167393
  • Galatariotou, Catia (2002) The Making of a Saint: The Life, Times and Sanctification of Neophytos the Recluse Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, ISBN 978-0-521-52188-8
  • Mango, C. A. and Hawkins, E. J. W. (1966) "The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and Its Wall Paintings" Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20: pp. 119–206
  • Papageōrgiou, Athanasios (1998) The Monastery of Agios Neophytos: History and Art (a short guide) Holy Royal and Stavropegiac Monastery of Saint Neophytos, Nicosia, Cyprus, ISBN 978-9963-614-03-5
  • Tsiknopoullos, Ioannis P. (1965) The Encleistra and Saint Neophytos Zavallis Press, Leukosia, Cyprus, OCLC 254973241