“On the sea-ocean, on the island of Buyan …” – this story could have begun if it were a fairy tale. But this is not a fairy tale, but the real reality: on the Paradise Island of Cyprus, 10 kilometers from Limassol, not far from the salt lake of the Akrotiri peninsula, there is a real feline paradise. St. Nicholas Monastery is one of the most visited attractions in Cyprus. And he is known, first, for the fact that the main “inhabitants” of the monastery are… cats.
There are many of them – a few dozen, and they feel like full owners. There are much fewer people here: these are only nuns who keep order in the monastery, but at the same time consider it their main duty to care for cats.
The monastery was founded more than one and a half thousand years ago, back in the 4th century AD, and more precisely in 327. According to legend, at that time, the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Princess Elena, mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great, made a sacred trip to the Holy Land, hoping to find the Life-Giving Cross and the Holy Sepulcher there. Elena made one of her stops in Cyprus.
On the island, there was hellish heat and unprecedented drought, which lasted for 17 years. As a result, a myriad of snakes bred around. There were so many of them that they became a serious threat to the security and life of people. And then Princess Elena ordered cats to be brought to Cyprus. A lot of cats – legend says that there were at least a thousand of them. And they were placed here in the monastery of St. Nicholas.
Cats immediately got down to business with enthusiasm: they killed snakes, and at the same time mice and lizards.
The monastery itself in ancient times was male. His story is full of trials and tragedies, from the earthquake to the Turkish invasion. But he was reborn to live again and again, and no matter what happened to the monastery, cats always lived here. Even the ancient Cape Kargeya, next to which there is a monastery, began to be called Kavo Gata – “Cape Cape”.
Since 1983, the monastery has been a women’s monastery. There are not so many cats here as one and a half millennia ago – about sixty or seventy. But they are the real business card of sunny Cyprus, and local fishermen are sure to share their catch with them in memory of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of wanderers and fishermen. Well, tourists come here from all over the world to see with their own eyes the “cat house”.