Did you know

21 Mar 2023

Did you know? The Maronites in Cyprus

Having their roots by the river Orontes and in Apamea, the followers of St Maron, devoted friend and co-traveller of St Chrysostom’s, are called Maronites. Their numbers increased and they spread all over Syria and Lebanon, choosing to live mostly on high grounds.

Many believe that the first arrival of Maronites to Cyprus was in the 7th century when the Arabs chased them away from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. They found refuge in Asia Minor where they were received by Emperor Justinian II as soldiers. They were called Mardaites or al Jarajima. From Satalia, a number of them arrived in the western part of Cyprus where they settled and called their first village Syrianochori. When in 930 the Arabs destroyed the monastery of St Maron near Apamea, a large number of Maronites come to the nearest place which is Cyprus. The monastery of St Chrysostom’s, at the foothills of Buffavento, built in 1090, is then used by the Maronites.

The Maronites welcomed the Crusaders in Syria and fought by their side against the Saracens. They were regarded Christians of the East and held their religious autonomy. But in 1181, the Maronites joined the Church of Rome. When ten years later, Guy de Lusignan lost his kingdom of Jerusalem to Salaheddin, he moved to Cyprus and with him came many Maronites. During the Middle Ages, many waves of immigration from the Near East increased the number of Maronites in Cyprus. Such an example is the number that came after the fall of Accra in 1291. The Maronites were trusted by the Lusignan and were members of the Court and enjoyed many privileges. It is believed that the number of Maronites then was around 60,000 and they lived in 60-63 villages mainly in the Kyrenia mountain range and in the Karpas peninsula.

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

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