Agios Neophytos Monastery - Saint Neophytos Monastery

A visit to a monastery almost 900 years old

Agios Neophytos Monastery was founded in 1170 AD. Dedicated to a local saint, Saint Neophytos the Recluse, who lived here about nine hundred years ago, the monastery is located about two kilometers from Tala village in a beautiful, isolated area. 

General view of the Monastery of Agios Neophytos.

What is included in this article - Table of Contents:

  

Useful general information about the monastery

The Monastery is dedicated to Agios Neophytos o Enkleistos (Saint Neophytos the Recluse).

Agios Neophytos Monastery Prior (Monastery Abbot): Leontios Bishop of Chytri, since 1978.

Monastery address
Iera Moni Agiou Neophytou, Tala village, Paphos
Holy Monastery of Saint Neophytos, Tala village, Paphos, Cyprus
Postal Address: Agios Neophytos Monastery, P.O. Box 60289, 8101, Paphos, Cyprus

Monastery telephone
Telephone+357 26652481
Fax +357 26 653 709

Celebration dates: The monastery celebrates every year twice, on the 28th of September and the 24th of January.

It is also good to know:

  • At the entrance of Agios Neophytos Monastery there is free parking space for both buses and private cars.

  • The monastery is accessible to persons in a wheelchair, but the Enkleistra and the museum are not accessible.

  • At the parking place and near the entrance of the monastery there are bathrooms, which are suitable for persons on wheelchairs.

  • A free leaflet with information about the monastery of Agios Neophytos is available in many languages.

  • There is also free Wifi for all visitors of the Monastery.

 

Saint Neophytos Monastery opening hours

The monastery of Agios Neophytos is open every day, from early in the morning until late in the afternoon. No fixed hours, it is safe to say that the monastery will be open until at least 16:30 during the winter, and at least until 18:00 during the summer. Sorry, but this is all we got.

Agios Neophythos' Enkleistra and Museum opening hours:
April - October: daily, 09:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 18:00
November - March: daily, 09:00 - 16:00

The Enkleistra and the Museum are closed on the following days: 25th of December (Christmas Day), 1st of January (New Year), Sunday of Greek Orthodox Easter, Green Monday, and 15th of August.

There is an entrance fee of Euro 2 for both the Enkleistra and the Museum.

 

Directions to the monastery

The monastery's location is in a nice area near Tala village. The easiest way to visit it by car is to follow the street connecting Kato Paphos and Paphos with Polis Chrysochous. Driving towards Poils, at the end of Mesogi village, there are traffic lights on a junction. Here you must turn left. Follow the street with taking any sideways and it takes you straight to the entrance of Agios Neophytos Monastery. The route from Mesogi until the monastery is very nice, with great views of Paphos coastline on your left-hand side of the car.

Another way to visit the monastery is by bus. There is a bus route that connects Paphos (from Karavella bus station) though 3-4 villages with the monastery. In order to visit Agios Neophytos monastery from Paphos by bus, check the bus routes here for more information. 

 

What to see and do when visiting the monastery

Frescoes at Agios Neophytos Enkleistra
Frescoes at Agios Neophytos Enkleistra

Visit the Enkleistra of Agios Neophytos

Saint Neophytos was planning to stay in the area where is now located the monastery, as a hermit. For this reason, he chose a steep slope with a small cave and built his retreat there. This is what we call today the Enkleistra. Trying to translate "Enkleistra" into English, means a place where someone is enclosed or withdrawn, a retreat, hence Saint Neophytos was also known as Hermit or Recluse. Enkleistra is about 150 meters from the monastery.

In the Enkleistra there are some frescoes of exceptional quality, well worth seeing them. Into the Enkleistra is also the saint's grave. The legend says that the grave's size adjusts so that it is a perfect match for anyone who lies in it. There is a say about this, Ἑίναι όπως το μνήμα του Αγίου Νεοφύτου" (ine opos to mnima toy Agiou Neofytou). A free translation into English would be, this is like Saint Neophytos' grave. We use this say especially for those who try to agree with everybody by saying something, as the politicians for example :)

Visit the museum of the monastery

The ecclesiastical museum at the monastery of Agios Neophytos covers an area of the eastern wing of the monastery. Its exhibits can be divided into two collections.

The first collection includes very nice ancient pottery from the Geometrical and Archaic periods, covering the period from 900BC until 600BC. 

The second collection displays a variety of valuable relics and ecclesiastical art. It includes important icons and other religious artifacts like old icons, sacred utensils, vestments, manuscripts and old books covering the period from 12th to 19th centuries AD.

Cats sanctuary

The cat sanctuary is located about 300 meters from the entrance of the monastery. Since 2011, they take care of stray and homeless cats in Cyprus. Currently, there are almost 1000 cats who found shelter at the sanctuary. Their policy is to take care of every cat and they never put down a healthy cat. 

The cat park is open every day from 8 am to 2 pm and there are many volunteers looking after the cats. 

For more information please visit their website at https://www.talacats.com. As they rely heavily on donations, you can make a donation online through their website if you wish.

Other things to do at Saint Neophytos monastery

Near the entrance of the monastery, there is a small shop where the visitors can buy souvenir items and memorabilia like copies of ecclesiastical icons, other religious items, a guide of the monastery etc. 

At the monastery's parking place, there are a couple of shops where you can buy various traditional Cypriot products, among others soutzioukkos, carob syrup, olive oil, etc. Also in the parking place, you can enjoy a refreshment at the coffee shop, in green and peaceful surroundings.

 

Location and map

Agios Neophytos Monastery map

 

Dressing code

For both men and women, please be dressed in a way that shows respect to a religious place. Nothing too conservative, but trying to visit the monastery in a swimming suit, for example, is unacceptable.

 

Saint Neophytos monastery festival / flea market

On September 28th, the monastery celebrates the finding of Saint Neophytos' burying place and grave. Together with this celebration, a large festival is kept just outside the monastery.
There are many merchants who sell various products, mainly Cypriot traditional products and local produce like nuts and seeds. There is also a lot of other merchandise to choose from.
Hundreds or even thousands of people who visit the monastery for the celebration, take the opportunity to visit the festival as well. A really fun and different experience, well worth the visit, especially if you have kids with you. On the minus side, do this only if you don't mind the crowds and the difficulty of parking, although I strongly recommend it. You will forget the difficult parking, but you will surely remember the fun!

 

Other activities near the monastery which you can combine with the visit to the monastery

A visit to Agios Neophytos Monastery is well worth it. However, in case you have some spare time, there are three attractions and activities to combine with your visit to Agios Neophytos.

Tala village center, about two kilometers away, is a good place for a drink or for food. The village is located on a hill overlooking Paphos and the coastline, offering wonderful views. A nice area for your drink or for dinner. 

Wine tasting at Fikardos winery. The winery at Mesogi village, near the traffic lights where you turn left to take the road to the monastery of Agios Neophytos, is a very popular wine tasting spot. With easy access from Paphos, you can taste their wines, some of them awarded for their quality, and, of course, buy them if you wish.

Loutra tou Adoni (Adonis Baths) is a small yet beautiful waterfall, where you can easily go from the monastery. This is a private place with an entrance fee of Euro 9 per person. I mention this but not recommend it.

 

Agios Neophytos the Recluse short biography

Neophytos was born in 1134AD in the small mountain village of Kato Drys near Lefkara, in Larnaca region, Cyprus.
 
In 1152AD, at the age of 18, Neophytos went to the Monastery of Saint John Chrysostomos on Pentadaktylos mountains and became a monk. He stayed in the monastery from 1152 until 1158. As he later confessed, even from this very early period of his monastic life, he was seeking to become an eremite, i.e. a Christian hermit or Recluse. 
 
Towards the end of 1158, he traveled to Jerusalem and the Holy Land for about six months. During this period he visited many monasteries and hermitages in the area. After having a vision, he decided to return to Cyprus and become a hermit there. 
 
In June 2159AD he returned to Cyprus and found the area near Tala village where is today the Enkleistra. It was a small cave on a steep hill slope, which he carved to enlarge and then used as his hermitage. For eleven years, he lived as a hermit, as was his wish. But with the years, he became known for his monastic life. He attracted many religious persons who started visiting him bringing food and asking for blessings.
 
In 1170, obeying Vasilios Kinnamos, the then Bishop of Paphos, he created a priory (monastery) and accepted firstly a disciple (pupil) and then a few monks. This way the hermitage slowly became a monastery.
 
In 1197AD, to avoid the many visitors to the monastery, he carved a second cave above Enkleistra, to ensure that he would be able to continue to live as a hermit. He called this Upper Enkleistra or New Sion. From there he supervised the building of the monastery and the painting of frescoes in the original Enkleistra.
 
For more than 60 years, he lived in his Enkleistra as a hermit studying various books he was lending from the Bishoprics of Paphos and Arsinoe, in the area of the modern Polis Chrysochous. During this period, he also wrote 16 books, with nine of them rescued until today in various libraries around Europe. The monastery of Agios Neophytos traced and found these nine books and issued them as a collection.
 
There is evidence of Saint Neophytos' actions until about 1220AD, after which no more activity of the saint can be traced. It is supposed that he passed away and buried in his Enkleistra around 1220. 

 

Saint Neophytos monastery short history

As we mentioned above, since 1170 AD, the Enkleistra slowly transformed into a monastery. Agios Neophytos as the first Prior (Abbot) of the monastery wrote a regulation for the operation of the monastery around 1187AD. 

After the death of Saint Neophytos the Recluse, the monastery continued operating until today. Unfortunately, for the first 200-300 years after the death of St Neophytos, we don't have enough information about the monastery which continued existing but its significance reclined. 

The next significant landmark of the monastery is in the 15th / 16th century when a monk called Neophytos undertook as the Prior. Under his guidance, the monastery found its old glory, and he was named Monk Neophytos the New Builder of the monastery. 

Each of the Priors that followed Monk Neophytos contributed towards the establishment of the monastery.

Today's Monastery Prior (Monastery Abbot) is Leontios, Bishop of Chytri, since 1978.

Notable earlier Priors
Saint Neophytos himself was the first Abbot of the monastery, from its foundation until the death of the Saint, around 1220 AD.

In 1821, Prior of the monastery was Ioakim Melissovoukas. Because he supervised the resistance of the monks against the Ottomans, he was asked to change his faith into Muslims. He refused and he was tortured to death by impalement. 

Chrysostomos 2nd is the current Archbishop of Cyprus. He was the Abbot of the monastery from 1972 until 1978 when he was declared Bishop of Paphos, before becoming Archbishop of Cyprus in 2006.