By Ismail Veli……
The village of Büyükkonuk/Komi Kebir in North Cyprus lies about 4-5 miles north-east of Boğaz in the lowland foothills of the Beşparmak Kyrenia mountain range, which is the start of the Karpaz peninsula.
Its outstanding natural beauty and location has prompted the government to declare this an area for eco-tourism. This has prompted film crews (including foreign) to film this area for cultural programmes. Though steeped in history and attracting a fair number of tourists, Komi Kebir is predominantly an agricultural village and the residents work mainly on the land. Crops such as wheat, barley, olives, carobs, vegetables plus livestock provides the village with much of its local needs. With assistance from the Economic Development and Growth for Enterprises (EDGE) under the Cyprus Partnership for Economic Growth project which is funded by the US Agency for international Development and the Turkish Embassy, much restoration has taken place.
The historic town square and church has also benefited from this valuable assistance. As a result Komi Kebir and its surrounding area has seen a change in its fortunes in the last few years. With Kantara castle only a short drive away and Salamis and Famagusta also within earshot, the area looks like it’s scheduled to benefit from such assistance and funds for a long time into the future.
During the 1st Sunday in May and the 2nd Sunday in October festivals take place in the village which successfully give the locals an opportunity to display traditional arts and crafts, and gives visitors the chance to try out and buy the local produce. Together with folk dancing and donkey rides the younger people also enjoy the wide variety of activities including making bread, cheese, carob syrup and broom tying.
The names of some local villages seem to be Arabic in origin. Komi Kebir means great dwellings, while Eptakomi is a mix of Greek and Arabic which simply means 7 dwellings. The famous castle Kantara on the other hand means ”the peak”. Legends and myths however put a different spin, which no doubt adds to the richness of local history. The historic mythology of Komi Kebir in particular is an important part of the local folklore.
The legend of the origins of the name Komi Kebir tells us that the body of St Auxentios was discovered simultaneously by peasants from the villages of Komi Kebir and Ephtakomi in a cave near Youdi/Yiouti. At once a dispute arose as to which village should have the honour of caring for the body. To settle the question they decided to put the body of the Saint in a cart and see where the oxen who drew it would go. No sooner had the body been placed in the cart the oxen started to cross the hills and fields and they stopped suddenly by the chapel of St Mavra/Mavro near Komi Kebir. A fierce argument sprang up between the two parties, and they were nearly coming to blows when the saint, whose body had been miraculously preserved, raised himself and uttered the single word ”Komi”.
Naturally the saint’s intervention settled the argument and his body was placed at the Chapel of St.
Mavra, which was rededicated to Saint Auxentio, and the village which had up to that point been called Kebir was given the additional name of Komi. The locals built a special church to honour the Saint whose body was placed in a small chamber in the roof above the central archway. A part of the bridle supposed to have been used by the oxen hangs above his icon.
According to some, Auxentios was a soldier who rose to great distinction. While still in the prime of his life, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a vision and he gave up his military career. He announced to his 300 followers his intentions and they followed him, each choosing for themselves a hermitage or place of retreat. Auxentios went to Karpasia/Karpaz and found a cave at a place called Iotion where he lived in total seclusion until his death
Source: Historic Cyprus by Richard Gunnis. Pages 281-2
To learn more of the village festivals please visit Eco Tourism cyprus website click here