St Fanourios Church, Karaoğlanoğlu

By Chris Elliott

Recently I had some time off from writing and  went on a boat trip westward from Kyrenia which was very relaxing and as we glided along my eye was drawn to a small church on the cliffs and it was not only this but the steps leading down from the church to what appeared to be a doorway in the cliff face.

I was aware of this church from the many times I had been to the Mountain View Hotel in  Karaoğlanoğlu so I decided to have a closer look.

The church can be reached by parking near the football ground and then walking across the rocky ground or parking near the old ruinedSt Fanourios Church olive oil factory and walking from there.

The age of the church is uncertain although its styling could be said to be modern and there is evidence of a church in this location on a UK Ministry of Defence map dated 1988 and on a British map of 1882 churches are shown but not in this location. The church I found to be open but disused and was cleanly painted white inside but with the passage of time it is showing its age and more so on the outside where it is exposed to the weather. The small windows were broken but it was noticeable that the frames were metal so this is not that old and perhaps is not under the custody of the TRNC Antiquities Department.

This church and the cave below, reached by the steps, are said to be dedicated to St Fanourios and local accounts say he fell to his death whilst climbing the cliffs. There are many references to St Fanourios on the internet and he was said to have lived during the Roman period as a soldier and was martyred for his religious beliefs.

The story of St Fanourios is said  to have started with the finding of an icon in a ruined church on the island of Rhodes in the 15th century by the then ruling Ottomans but they Fanouropita cake and St Fanourios iconcast it aside. It was recovered by the Christian inhabitants who after many difficulties, obtained permission from the Sultan in Istanbul to rebuild the church in which the icon is to be found. There are conflicting opinions on this find as it has also been claimed the icon was discovered in Cyprus.

The original icon depicts a young man in Roman style armour holding a candle, a cross and a spear and around the main picture are 12 smaller pictures depicting his martyrdom.

So back to Cyprus and when you walk down the steps from the church you will come to an open doorway to a small cave within which are numerous icons and it can be seen this place is used for regular worship.

Whilst taking some pictures I noticed a silver foil tray with what looked like a cake in it. This cake was an offering and I have since found that this cake is called  Fanouropita. The tradition of baking a Fanouropita is a great honour bestowed upon the Saint. It is typically a small, round cake and is made whenever the saint reveals a lost object, a job, a cure or anything else the person has sought to find, and Pygmy hippopotamus boneshas found.

The Saint’s name is Fanourios which means  “the Revealer”  and over the centuries he has given much hope and comfort to those who believe in him.

Leaving this small cave church you may stop to admire the sea view and huge rocks and you will see in front of you a rock which has fossilised bones imbedded in it and these are reputed to be the bones of a pygmy hippopotamus that roamed this area long ago like their cousins in the Ayia Napa area.

To read more of the St Fanourios story, please click here