The richest monastery in Cyprus, this place demands attention for its political and cultural relevance rather than its decorative or cosmetic merits. The origins of the monastery can be traced to the 11th century, when a monk cured the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komnenos in exchange for an icon of Panagia Eleousa (the Merciful Virgin), ascribed to the hand of Luke the Evangelist. The icon itself was shielded in silver gilt 400 years ago; and the monastery that stands today dates from the 1830s.
What still draws the crowds in droves are the monastery's associations with the first president of Cyprus, elected after a hard-won independence. Archbishop Makarios III received his secondary education here, served as a monk in his early career and later returned to hide out while active in the guerrilla war against the British. His memory is passionately cherished by most Cypriots, who overcrowd the monastery on Sundays to baptise their babies. Make sure you bring something to cover exposed arms and knees, or you will have to rent trousers and shawls from stalls outside the church in order to enter.