The first line of action of any invaders of a land is the local religion. If you conquer it you have better chances of submitting the people. Like in Meteora where wars drove the monks out of the plain and perked them on top of the fabulous formations building hanging churches to escape the barbarism, the same happened in Cyprus. Invasions drove the monks to build churches deep into the inaccessible mountains covered by impenetrable forests of the Central Troodos Massif. And they painted it inside in amazing chromatic fresco depicting the life of Christ, a stupendously beautiful illustrated bible hidden like a gem of the pagan eyes. To get there we crossed first old villages that look like they were forgotten by the times. Old rock house steeped into the hills that are almost covering the extremely winding one car wide streets. Vassa and Omodos are two of these extremely charming villages, the first completely deserted like it was never discovered, the second more alive with stores selling traditional products congregating around the main square were tavernas were competing for the Russian tourist money that abound in Cyprus. Behind everything, the thick walls made of old rocks of the village church, orthodox icons, old wine presses, charming streets and traditional renovated houses where you can forget for a night of the times you live in.
Winding roads bring you up to mountain resorts, cold and damp with lots of snow at this time of the year but a reprieve in the long summer sultry days. There deep in these forests are the monasteries, cult lairs of a once banned but never forgotten belief. Out of the many churches hidden in the woods, about ten of them are protected by UNESCO for their unique style and artistic value. It takes a lot of time to visit them all so we were able to delve in the monks’ world in Pedoulas, Moutoulas and Kalopanayiotis. The last village houses Agios Ioannis of Lambadistis, a treasure trove of frescoes, whose brilliance is stunning. The monastery dates from the year 1000 and the frescoes from sometimes in the 14th century adorning the church and two chapels that were built in time, sharing a large common roof of a distinctive architectural style characteristic for Troodos with elongated slated wooden roofs that reach almost the ground supported by deep rock walls. The mysterious atmosphere of the place is encompassing, a reminder of a deep preserved religious tradition in a country that was ruled for centuries by foreigners of other religions. They never ruled per se and they delegated the affair of the country to the religious head of the Cypriot church that was the real connector between the people and the occupiers. This model, almost like a religious state, disappeared in Europe for long but it is still alive even nowadays in Cyprus, an ethnarchy that revamped the old tradition where people rely on their religious leader for leadership and guidance. The church’s role in the country affairs is derived also from the remarkable stature of Archbishop Makarios III, who was exiled by the Brits to Seychelles just to return and guide the country towards independence in 1960.