Some 150 Armenian Cypriots, some of whom returned to Cyprus especially for the occasion, yesterday went on pilgrimage to the Sourp Magar Monastery in the occupied areas.
The seventh such pilgrimage to the monastery, also known as Magaravank, was organised by the Office of the Representative of the Armenian Community Vartkes Mahdessian in co-operation with the Armenian Prelature of Cyprus.
The first visit was on May 6, 2007, when the Armenian Cypriot community was able to visit the occupied Armenian monastery for the first time in 33 years.
The monastery was founded by Copts around the year 1000 AD and by 1425 had been inherited by the Armenians.
Dedicated to Saint Makarios the Hermit of Alexandria, it is located on the eastern part of Turkish-occupied Pentadaktylos at an altitude of 530 metres.
The Armenian monastery had for centuries been a popular pilgrimage for Armenians and non-Armenians, as well as a place of rest for Catholicoi (Patriarchs) and other Armenian clergymen from Cilicia and Jerusalem and also a centre of attraction for local and foreign travellers, as well as pilgrims en route to the Holy Land.
Mahdessian added: "The monastery was also used as a summer resort, where Armenian scouts and students would camp, including students of the Melkonian Educational Institute, many of whom were orphans of the Armenian Genocide. A large number of exquisite and priceless manuscripts dating back to 1202-1740, as well as many other ecclesiastical relics, were housed there. Fortunately, in 1947 some of them were saved when they were relocated to the "Cilicia" Museum of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia."
The Magaravank is the only Armenian monastery in Cyprus and, together with the recently restored church of the Virgin Mary in occupied Nicosia, it is the most important Armenian ecclesiastical monument on the island.
"It was occupied in August 1974 during the Turkish invasion and ever since it remains at the mercy of nature, silent, ruined, desecrated and deserted, awaiting for its rightful owners to return," Mahdessian said.