"A beautiful site indeed." Bellapais Abbey by leics
Bellapais Abbey Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 29 photos
Of course, the lovely Gothic monastery and abbey of Bellapais (near Kyrenia) is high on the list of tourist sites in Northern Cyrpus, and most day tours from the south will include a visit. So you can expect to see others whilst you are there ....or visit out of season, as I did, which is much more pleasant and much less crowded.
Bellapais (Beylerbeyi) is not a particularly atttractive village, imo..at least, not nowadays. It is famous not only for its abbey but also as the home of author Lawrence Durrell, who lived there for a few years in the 1950s. His autobiographical work 'Bitter Lemons' tells of his time spent in Bellapais, the people he met and the wrangles involved in his house purchase.
But I was interested in the Gothic abbey and monastery, rather than in seeking out Durrell's ex-home.
It dates from 1200...originally known as 'St Mary of the Mountain'......and was founded by Augustinian monks. Its present name is a corruption of 'abbaye de la paix' (abbey of peace).
Much of what you can see today dates from the mid 1200s, with the cloisters being added in the mid 1300s. When the island came under Turkish rule in the late 1500s the monastery was disbanded and the buildings given to the Greek Orthodox church.
The abbey church dates from the 13th century, although the surviving mural above its entrance is later.....15th century. It was in use right up to 1976, when the remaining local Greek community finally had to move to the south. It is now open to the public again, and since the border opened in 2003 it is regularly visited and maintained.
Inside are icons, chandeliers, a beautifully-carved wooden pulpit and bishop's throne and an incredible curved women's gallery, wooden and suspended high overhead.
But it is the cloisters (and chapterhouse, although that is largely ruined) which most attracted me for there still remain some of the wonderful Medieval carvings which I love..and which can be seen in Gothic churches and monasteries all over Europe (and, clearly, elsewhere as well).
Angels and sea-maidens, animals and monsters, women, men, trees, flowers.......the variety of carved stonework one finds in such places is wonderful, and gives such an insight into the mind of the ordinary working man of the time (stonemasons and carpenters were always men).
The large refectory now serves as a concert venue (with wonderful acoustics, apparently) although British troops also used it as a firing range (in the 19th century). There is a lovely carved stone pulpit, from which a maonk would read during mealtimes. And outside the entrance stand two Roman sarcophagi, recycled for use by the monks as a 'lavabo' for washing hands before meals!
Beautiful palm vaulting in the undercroft, superb views over the coast from the abbey grounds......lots to enjoy here, but far better enjoyed without throngs of other visitors.
More photos in the travelogue
- Pros:Beautiful site for a lovely abbey
- Cons:Likely to be crowded in high season
- In a nutshell:A beautiful site indeed.
If you are visiting when the citrus fruits are on the trees, do look closely at the tree just in fronmt of the entrance... more travel advice
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