Did you know

27 Jul 2022

Did You Know? The Maronites

The traveller Tommaso Porcacchi published in 1576 a book about the islands he had visited in 1550, amongst which Cyprus.

“In Nicosia lived many nobles in the court of Guy de Lusignan and at the same time a large number of foreigners arrived including Armenians, Copts, Maronites, Hindus, Nestorians, Georgians, Jacobines each groups having its own bishop. Nevertheless, all these bishops were regarded helpers of the Latin Archbishop of Cyprus. The nobles got on well with the foreigners since most of the latter lived like the Latins while the rest followed the Greek way of living. They were short-tempered, lively and boisterous and lived in luxury and opulence.”

With the arrival of the Ottomans, the Maronites, as was the case with all Christians, were persecuted and their numbers decreased. Very few villages remained, about 10-15 mainly around the Five Finger Mountain on the south part of the island. These villages were Vouno, Romanos, Chrysiida, Gastria, Clepini, Sychari, Koutsoventis, Kythrea, Trimithia, Diorios, Kormakitis and a few others.

Under the Ottoman administration many Maronites entered the Orthodox church or turned to Islam. However, according to the travellers, oppressions were continuous and by many.

Girolamo Dandini from Perugia was sent by the Pope in 1596 to visit the Maronites of the Lebanon. On the way he stopped in Cyprus where he visited Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia. In Nicosia, Dandini refers to the Maronites reporting that…“they have their own church but it is in such a miserable state that they don’t even have covers for the holy altar, no grails, no clothes, almost nothing. I really felt sorry for them. They live scattered in 19 villages, Metochi, Fludi, Ayia Marina, Asomatos, Cambyli, Carpashia, Kormakitis, Trimithia, Kazaphani, Vouno, Kipo, Geri near Kythrea, Chrysiida,Kefalovryso, Sooto, Attalou, Clepini, Piskopio and Gastria. They have at least one neighbourhood and a priest in each of these villages. At Metochi they had 8 churches and they said that they used to hold mass on every feast on the mountains and everyday in the plain. They usually have one bishop in Cyprus.”

Hackett believed that the first monastery established by the Maronites was dedicated to St George Attalos in Attalou or Tali somewhere on the east side of the Kyrenia mountain range, near Harchia. That is where their bishop resided. He was under the Archbishop of the Lebanon.

According to the Swedish priest Michael Olofson Enerman, who travelled to Cyprus in 1713, “the French marry their women according to the dowery they will receive. They prefer marrying Maronites than Greeks. These men are lucky and stand solid on their feet. Others take the bride’s money; they gamble and then abandon their home and wife. The Armenians and the Maronites traditionally held the trade of madder until the British arrived and took over. The Maronites of Larnaca have wonderful houses and go to the Franciscan and Capuchin monks for their religious practices.”

The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).

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