Located about 40km from the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, Panagia Machairas is a historic monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It lies at an altitude of about 900 m and was founded at the end of the 12th century close to the current village of Lazanias.
Located on the slopes of Kionia, in the valley of Machairas mountains, Machairas Monastery is one of the most known and visited on the island, housing the miraculous icon of Panagia of Machairas, which is attributed to Agios Loukas (Apostle Luke) the Evangelist.
According to legend, an unknown hermit sneaked the icon into Cyprus during the iconoclasm years (between the 8th and 9th century AD) and kept it in his cave until his death around 1145. Blessed with the divine grace, the hermits Ignatios and Neophytos, discovered the cave – which was obscured by bushes – and were able to reach it by cutting down the undergrowth with a knife given to them by a divine hand. As a result, the revealed icon was given the name ‘Machairiotissa’ from the Greek ‘machairi’. The monastery was built on the same spot, also taking the same name.
Today, the renovated vestry basement consists of the monks’ original cells, stables and storage areas, and houses a collection of old books and manuscripts, icons and other religious artifacts.
The brotherhood at the monastery is extremely devout, keeping vows as strict as those of Mount Athos in Greece.
The monastery has a rectangular layout and a red-tiled timber roof. The main entrance faces towards the east and a second faces due west. The supporting buildings and monks’ cells are built around a centrally located church designed in Byzantine style. The main aisle of the church is lined with rows of columns. It is covered by a dome and the large tiled roof.
The interior of the church is decorated with religious icons, chandeliers, stone floors and wall frescoes. As expected, the icon of the Virgin Mary takes a prominent position.