MONASTERIES IN CYPRUS
The earliest mention of Copts in Cyprus comes from a traveler, Iohann van Kootwyck, who writes that they arrived following the capture of Jerusalem by Salah al-Din in 1187 (Burmester, 1942, pp. 11-12). A letter of benediction dated from Christmas A.M. 1225/A.D. 1508 from the ninety-fourth patriarch of Alexandria, JOHN XIII (1484-1524) gives a list of the bishops submitting to his jurisdiction. There was then an Anba Mikha’il, metropolitan of Cyprus and afterward of Rhodes (Muyser, pp. 161-63). This presupposes a fairly large Coptic community on the island.
In a census taken by the Turks in 1777, Copts were conspicuously absent and presumably did not then form part of the island’s population. The latest mention of the Coptic community occurs in 1646 in a colophon of an Arabic commentary on the last three books of the Pentateuch that was copied in Cyprus and now is in possession of the Coptic Patriarchate. Between 1646 and 1777, therefore, the Coptic community of Nicosia, the capital city, disappeared for an unknown reason.
The Coptic monasteries of Cyprus include the following: Monastery of Saint Antony at Famagusta (fourteenth century)The oldest attestation of the presence of Coptic monks in Cyprus comes from a Spanish Dominican, Alphonse Bonhome (or Buenhombre), who discovered an Arabic Life of Saint ANTONY at a Coptic monastery at Famagusta. In the dedication that he added to his Latin translation and dated 1342, he stated that a Coptic monastery was present in the upper part of the town of Famagusta in the southeastern part of the island. Bonhome, unfortunately, does not specify the origin of the convent, nor the number of monks.
An act of WAQF (religious donation of land) for the benefit of the Church of Saint Antony at Famagusta very probably deals with the same convent (undated Egyptian manuscript with fourteenth- century writing; Troupeau, 1972, p. 58).
Monastery of Saint Macarius of Klima (sixteenth century)An act of waqf for the benefit of the monastery of Saint Macarius of Klima in Cyprus is preserved in a manuscript dated 1526. It is not possible to say whether this convent is identical with the following one (Troupeau, 1972, p. 85).
Monastery of Saint Macarius at Platani (sixteenth century)The historian Etienne de Lusignan in 1573 writes of a Coptic monastery called after Saint Macarius that was situated outside Nicosia toward the north, near the village of Platani. It belonged to the Armenians. It is very probably the convent of Surp Magar (Saint Macarius), which still exists today, 16 miles (26 km) northeast of Nicosia in the mountains near the village of Halevka. It still belongs to the Armenian community (Burmester, 1972, pp. 10-11; Keshishian, 1967, pp. 178-79).
Monastery of Saint Antony at Nicosia (seventeenth century) A manuscript of biblical commentary of the Coptic Patriarchate of Cairo, according to the colophon of the second part, was written “in the island of Cyprus, the well-guarded, in the God-loving town of Levkosia [Nicosia], in the monastery of the great saint, our father, Anba Antuniyus, father of all monks”; this note is dated 7 Babah A.M. 1363/A.D. 1646.
Three or four Coptic monasteries are therefore attested in the island of Cyprus from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. It is not possible to say when and how they have disappeared.
- Burmester, O. H. E. “The Copts in Cyprus.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 7 (1942):9-13.
- Halkin, F. “La Légende de saint Antoine traduite de l’arabe par Alphonse Bonhome, O.P.” Analecta Bollandiana 60 (1942):143-212.
- . “Un Monastère copte à Famagouste au XIVe siècle.” Le Muséon 59 (1946):511-14.
- Keshishian, K. K. Romantic Cyprus. Nicosia, 1967.
- Muyser, J. “Contribution a l’étude des listes épiscopales de l’église copte.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 10 (1944):115-76.
- Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, pt. 1: Manuscrits chrétiens, Vol. 1. Paris, 1972.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.