September 17, 2019

Monastery of Saint Herakleides in Cyprus

Saint Herakleides, commemorated on September 17th, was the son of a pagan priest and lived in the village Lambadistos, in Cyprus. His father, although a pagan, was hospitable and did not hesitate to accommodate the Apostle Paul together with Barnabas and Mark when they came to Cyprus. The Apostles however refused to dine with one who sacrificed to idols, but instead asked for a guide around the island. Herakleides' father gladly volunteered his son. The Apostles led Herakleides to the faith of Christ, since he was eager to learn, and he in turn, led his parents. It is said that his name was first Herakleon but changed by Saint Paul upon his baptism to Herakleides. Saint Barnabas on his second trip to Cyprus appointed him Bishop of Cyprus and placed him in Tamassos. He is said to have built churches, cured diseases, raised the dead, cast out demons, and worked innumerable wonders. Herakleides worked with great zeal along with his disciple Myron, his successor as Bishop of Tamassos, for the dissemination of Christianity with impressive results, and many pagans believed in Christ. His successes however agitated the unbelievers, who killed them by burning them alive.

The remains of Saint Herakleides were buried in a cave, which became a place associated with miracles, and by the fourth century a church was erected there dedicated to the Saint. Over the years this church was expanded upon, eventually becoming a monastery in the fifth century. It was destroyed in the 7th century by Arabs the first of many times and rebuilt many times. The modern structure dates to 1773 under Archbishop Chrysanthos, though the basilica dates to the 15th century. Traces of the ancient monastery are preserved under the foundations of the modern monastery, such as the mausoleum with a mosaic floor, decorated with geometric representations and a monogram of Jesus. The katholikon is a three-aisled basilica. After 1821 the monastery was dissolved and its property was rented by the Archdiocese of Cyprus to individuals called "caretakers". During this phase, the katholikon and buildings of the monastery suffered great damage, and were even threatened with collapse. On July 23, 1962, the monastery re-opened as a female community and was restored and expanded, and today has around 45 nuns.

A new icon of St. Herakleides from the monastery, painted by an iconographer from Vatopaidi Monastery, at the expense of Demetrios and Anna Gregoriou from Leukosia, Cyprus.