August 30, 2010

Saint Vryaini and Her Unique Chapel in Cyprus

St. Vryaini of Mandria (Feast Day - August 30)


From the earth Vryaini, divine grace has sprung forth,
A fount sharing in the life above.
On the thirtieth Vryaini was led into heaven.

The little known saint known as Saint Vryaini, also known as Vryoni, has a small chapel dedicated to her in the Mandria area of Paphos, Cyprus. She is known solely through her chapel, which is the only one in the world dedicated to this Saint.

Until 1963-64 the village of Mandria in Paphos was a mixed village, inhabited by both Greeks and Turks. In 1960 the village had 404 inhabitants. The Turkish Cypriots amounted to 329 and the Greek Cypriots to 79. With the bi-communal clashes between Greeks and Turks in Cyprus in 1963-1964, the Greek inhabitants left the village and the village became a Turkish enclave while Greeks could not go there.

In 1974 the Turkish Cypriots left and went to the occupied areas. The village was settled by Greek Cypriot refugees who came from the north. The village is next to the sea and close to the city of Paphos. It is also one of the most productive villages in Cyprus. The village had a church dedicated to Saints Andronikos and Athanasia (which has now been rebuilt), and five chapels dedicated to Saint Heliodorus, Saint Evresi, Saint Evlogius, Saint Angona (Arkona) and Saint Vryaini or Vryoni.

After 1963, when the Greek Cypriots left and the Turkish Cypriots remained, they were all destroyed. None of all these chapels remain any longer except the Chapel of Saint Vryaini which has been rebuilt by a refugee family from the village of Assia, after visions, when the Saint showed where the ruins of her chapel were situated.

The Chapel of Saint Vryaini was attacked three times by the Turkish Cypriot inhabitants of the village. In 1975, along with the refugees who came to Mandria after the Turkish invasion there was also a woman from Assia, Mrs. Stavroula. At that time, nothing had remained in the village to remind people of the chapel, whose ruins were hidden under the earth. However, one night, a woman clad in black presented herself to Mrs. Stavroula in her sleep who indicated to her a spot near the sea. While pointing out the spot she told her: "You see this foundation? A chapel is to be found there. Go and find it." The next day she went to the place she dreamed about, and after digging the earth she found the foundations of the old Chapel of Saint Vryaini. In 1986 the inauguration of the new chapel was made. It was built high on a hill above a cave south of the village.

One of the most famous legends concerning the origins of the Chapel of Saint Vryaini recounts that while a boat was located off the coast of Cyprus, a great storm suddenly broke out. Looking for a shelter to save his ship, the captain approached the coast. But the tempest drove the ship to Mandria. The captain and the sailors of the ship were aware of the risk of crashing on the rocks, and begged before the icon of Saint Vryaini, which was kept on board, to save them. They even promised that if the Saint saved them, they would build a church in her honour. Saint Vryaini heard the prayers of the seamen and the storm abated. The captain, in order to show his gratitude for being saved along with his men, kept the promise he made and built a small chapel in the name of Saint Vryaini near the sea.

Saint Vryaini seems to be very miraculous, since with her various miracles, year after year, the number of her pilgrims increase significantly. In the community of Mandria, Saint Vryaini is greatly honoured, since she has saved the lives of many people, even those with cancer.

The memory of Saint Vryaini is celebrated on August 30th where there is also a feast and many believers come to her chapel this day, not only from the community but also from the surrounding area, to pray to her. The faithful also come daily to light a candle and pray.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
With the wings of the virtues you were lifted up, to be like-minded with the Angels through your way of life, and you destroyed the counsels of the enemy, wherefore you showed yourself to be a communicant of the glory of Christ, Venerable Mother Vryaini, cease not to entreat Him, to have mercy on our souls.