NICOSIA, Cyprus—The Office of the Representative of the Armenian Community, Vartkes Mahdessian, in co-operation with the Armenian Prelacy of Cyprus, led the seventh annual pilgrimage to the Sourp Magar Monastery (Magaravank) on Sunday, May 18. The first visit was on May 6, 2007, when the Armenian-Cypriot community visited the Turkish occupied Armenian Monastery for the first time after 33 years. According to Mahdessian’s Office, around 150 Armenian-Cypriots visited the monastery on Sunday, some of whom came from abroad specially for the event, Gibrahayer Magazine reported.
The monastery was founded by Copts around the year 1000 AD and by 1425 it was inherited by the Armenians. Dedicated to Saint Makarios the Hermit of Alexandria, it is located on the eastern part of Turkish-occupied Pentadhaktylos at an altitude of 530 meters and a small distance from Halevga, within the Plataniotissa forest. Its vast land, which covers around 8.500 donums, includes 30.000 olive and carob trees, extends up to the sea and is characterised as picturesque and idyllic. From the Monastery one can see the Taurus mountain range in Cilicia.
The Armenian Monastery had for centuries been a popular pilgrimage for Armenians and non-Armenians, as well as a place of rest for Catholicos (Patriarchs) and other Armenian clergymen from Cilicia and Jerusalem and also a center of attraction for local and foreign travelers, as well as pilgrims en route to the Holy Land. The monastery was also used as a summer resort, where Armenian scouts and students would camp, including students of the Melkonian Educational Institute, many of whom were orphans of the Armenian Genocide. A large number of exquisite and priceless manuscripts dating back to 1202-1740, as well as many other ecclesiastical relics, were housed there. Fortunately, in 1947 some of them were saved when they were relocated to the Museum of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia.
The Magaravank is the only Armenian monastery in Cyprus and, together with the recently restored church of the Virgin Mary in occupied Nicosia, it is the most important Armenian ecclesiastical monument on the island. It was occupied in August 1974 during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and has been left neglected since.