In a village in the Larnaca district, PAUL LAMBIS also finds important religious history
One of the most important chapters in Cyprus’ religious history has to be that of Saint Helen – mother of Constantine the Great – who arrived on the island with relics from her visit to Jerusalem in the 4th century AD, bringing with her pieces of the holy cross, the rope with which Jesus was tied to the cross, and parts of Christ’s tunic.
During her missionary tour of the island, Saint Helen is said to have founded several churches and monasteries, which attest to the importance of Christianity in Cyprus. According to tradition, the empress raised awareness of the Holy Cross among the locals, leaving small fragments of the relic in churches, including one in the village of Tochni in the Larnaca region.
“The church of Saints Constantine and Helen, which is remarkably built on a bridge in the village of Tochni, is truly a spectacular phenomenon,” community leader Pantelis Charalambous said. “The current church, however, was reconstructed on the original site, which was originally founded by Saint Helen after her return from the Holy Land.”
Entering the village of Tochni it is easy to understand its religious importance, but the village also offers an insight into Cyprus’ architectural past, with a large number of properties built using a traditional stone unique to the area. “Tochni was famous for its great master masons who worked the stone of the area in a unique way,” Charalambous said. “Walking through the village will immerse you in beautiful stone-built houses, courtyards and gardens. The village exemplifies authentic rural tourism development.”
When it comes to tourism, Tochni rarely disappoints. The village has been recognised as an agrotourism destination, which supports the restoration and preservation of the traditional stone-built homes, as well as promoting the charm of a quiet rural environment.
It is difficult to overlook the area’s simplicity and naturalness while walking through the tight alleys embraced by old-world wooden shutters, wildflowers growing through the cracks of old houses, and the aromas of tradition dishes wafting through the windows.
The nature surrounding the village makes it ideal for cycling and horseback riding. Tochni also has several quality and diverse climbing spots that are “entirely unspoilt and just waiting to be explored,” Charalambous said.
“The Tochni Exploring Nature trail is located southeast of the village, where one can experience the changing landscape with rich wild flora and fauna, as well as panoramic views of the area,” he added.
The trail follows a circular route that is slightly under three kilometres and can be completed on foot in less than an hour. “The trail also leads to the ecclesiastical museum, which displays religious artefacts unique to the area.”
The Tochni Ecclesiastical Museum, located in a small room on the south side of the church, houses an interesting collection of sacred vessels and icons painted by prominent Byzantine artists, including those renowned for their art Theophanes Kaissareias, Arseniou, and Louka, who lived in Tochni in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
The ruins of a Gothic church, constructed during the first half of the 14th century and later converted into a monument, are thought to have been a central place of worship during the Lusignan period. “This one-of-a-kind site, as well as the mosque and Muslim burial ground in the village’s eastern part, reflect Tochni’s cultural legacy and religious diversity.
“Tochni is a beautiful and peaceful village that allows visitors to experience traditional Cypriot village life and learn about the island’s rich history, culture and religion. With its lovely natural surroundings and ancient attractions, the village is unquestionably a must-visit destination,” Charalambous added.
Most visitors to Cyprus head for the popular cities and beach resort, but the villages also provide some of the country’s most enchanting escapes. These villages offer quintessential Cypriot charm without the crowds, and are all within day-tripping distance of the major cities and towns.
Tochni allows visitors to relive a bygone era, lost traditions, historic architectural designs, sites of religious significance and, more importantly, to disconnect from the glare of a screen as you reconnect with natural surroundings – and yourself.
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