September 12, 2015

Saint Kournoutas, Who Lived as an Ascetic in Aheran

St. Kournoutas of Cyprus (feast Day - September 12)

In Cyprus, when people want to say that something will never happen or take place, they use the following saying: "It will happen on the name day of Saint Kournoutas." Most people in Cyprus believe that Saint Kournoutas does not exist and therefore is not celebrated in the Greek Orthodox calendar. However, Saint Kournoutas actually does exist and he does have a name day and is honored by the Church. In older times, Saint Kournoutas was widely honored in Cyprus, as the great number of ruined churches on the island that carry his name testify. These can especially be found in Paphos and its villages, such as Geroskipou, Salamis, Souskiou, Polemi and elsewhere.

Leontios Machairas, the Cypriot medieval chronicler, writes in his chronicle that Saint Kournoutas was among the three hundred Christian refugees from Palestine who found refuge in Cyprus, after the conquest of Jerusalem and the Holy Land by the Arabs. He writes that Saint Kournoutas made his hermitage at the village of Aheran in the province of Nicosia along with the Heliophotoi Saints. However, he did not share his hermitage with the Heliophotoi Saints as Machairas reported, but lived in a hermitage separately in the same region of Aheran (current Ahera). That is to say, the mountainous rocky region by the village of Agrokipia up to the village Kato Moni in Mitsero. Specifically, Saint Kournoutas became a hermit in this wild region near the village of Agrokipia.

The Saint made his hermitage in that region and he supplied his drinking water from the valley and river that is found in the western direction from the area where his church was built. Saint Kournoutas reposed and was buried in this same place where he lived his life as a hermit. Many years after his repose the faithful of the region built a church to his name. On a mural painted in 1465 at the Church of Saint Mamas in the village of Louvaras in the province of Limassol, he is depicted as a Bishop. He has no special hymns to his name.

The memory of Saint Kournoutas is celebrated on the 12th of September, the same day the memory of Saint Kournoutas, Bishop of Iconium (Asia Minor) is also celebrated (the icon mentioned above is probably of the latter saint, which is also used for the former). Some say it was the latter who came to Cyprus from Asia Minor and lived there as an ascetic, but in fact he was martyred in Asia Minor.

North of the village of Agrokipia, about three kilometers away, near the water reservoir from where the inhabitants of Agrokipia take their drinking water, the ruins of the ancient Church of Saint Kournoutas used to exist up until a few years ago. Today, neither its ruins nor its foundation exist. There is only an old olive tree to mark the place where this old church used to be. The residents of Agrokipia built a new church there to honor Saint Kournoutas and consecrated it in 2014. It is in the location where an icon of Saint Kournotas was discovered in 1918, which is kept in the main church of the village. This church may be the only operating church to the Saint in the world, as the rest are in ruins.