Kouklia Village (Paphos, Pafos)
Kouklia is a village of the district of Pafos and lies at a distance of about 16 kilometres from the city of Pafos. It is built at an average altitude of 85 meters in the coastal plain of Pafos, north of the central highway of Limassol - Pafos, where -according to mythology -the goddess of Beauty and Love, Aphrodite, emerged.
Kouklia receives an average annual rainfall of about 420 millimetres; grapevines (wine-making and table grape varieties), bananas, all sorts of citrus fruits, avocados, apricot, kiwis, olives, locust beans, legumes, peanuts, and a large variety of vegetables are cultivated upon its fertile land. The forest "Randi" in the south-east as well as part of the forest "Oriti" in the north-east are within its administrative boundaries. Stockbreeding is well developed in the community.
The very good geographic position of the village as well as the profitable agricultural and farming operations are factors that have aided the remarkable population growth. The inhabitants of Kouklia numbered 404 in 1881, increasing to 520 in 1921. In 1946 the inhabitants run into 791 (437 Greek-Cypriots and 354 Turkish-Cypriots) and in 1973 to 1110 (613 Greek-Cypriots, 494 Turkish-Cypriots, and 3 of other nationalities). After the Turkish invasion of 1974, the Turkish-Cypriot inhabitants of the village were coerced by their leadership to abandon the village and transfer to the occupied regions, along with all the other Turkish-Cypriots from the non-occupied areas. In 1976 the inhabitants of Kouklia were 732, which decreased to 681 in 1982. In the census of 2001 the inhabitants were 669.
The village is built in the venue were "Palaipafos" (Old Pafos) -the seat of the kingdom of Pafos -stood, which was one of the most important ancient kingdoms of Cyprus.
The entire area of the community, including also the place where -today -the houses of the village are built, is an important archaeological region. Excavations have been conducted at times, bringing to surface the famous temple of "Aphrodite of Pafos" (Pafia Aphrodite), the remains of the fortification of Palaipafos, and various other movable findings that are found in the archaeological Museum situated in the village, housed in the medieval villa south of the village.
The village was in existence during the Byzantine years and must have been a property of the Byzantine officer "Kouvikoularios". The word "kouvouklion" meant sepulchral chamber but also meant the dormitory of the Byzantine emperors. The bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors that guarded the imperial dormitory were named "kouvikoularioi" and often were granted pieces of land as a reward for their services. Such a "kouvikoularios" most probably became the master/owner of the village and so it was named Kou(vou)klia. Therefore, if kouklia was not the property of a "kouvikoularios" then it must have been a place with country houses for Byzantine officials.
The village was still named "Kouvouklia" until the Frank domination era, instead of the abbreviated Kouklia. De Masse Latri reports that during the Frank domination era the village was a large royal estate in which sugarcane was cultivated. The large medieval villa of Kouklia proves that the village was an important feud.
During the era of Turkish domination, Kouklia were confiscated by the new conqueror and became a manor.
Today, Kouklia is a thriving community. Palm trees are planted in the main-street entrance of the village adding a special beauty. The streets of the village -clean and well looked after -bring the visitor to the central plaza where the church of the Apostle and Evangelist Luke stands. The inhabitants of the village are distinguished for their piety and respect for the sacred and the holly. Around the village there are either chapels or ruins of chapels that testify for the piety of the inhabitants.
There is a regional Elementary School in the village, which both the pupils of Kouklia as well as the ones from the neighbouring village Nikokleia attend. Also, a police station, a health centre, and a state-owned nursery (greenhouse) have their headquarters there. In the village plaza there are several coffee-houses and taverns that offer luxuriant food and entertainment.
The rapid tourist and structural development, the archaeological findings of the area, the "Petra tou Romiou" venue, the legend of Aphrodite, the unsparing natural beauty of the region, and the unique combination of mountains with the deep blue sea give the village of Kouklia a uniqueness that cannot be found anywhere else.
The Church of Apostle Luke
As one ascends through the Community of Kouklia, a community with an ancient History and in which the beautiful Aphrodite had lived (something made evident by the ruins of her temple), we will have the opportunity of seeing the beautiful churches and also its beautiful chapels / country churches. Moving on toward the centre of the village and in the midst of the traditional little houses, we will face the main church of the Apostle and Saint Luke. About 100 years ago the church sustained quite some damage due to an earthquake. Some testimonies that we have suggest that the church was re-built in 1895. It is of the Basilica style with tiles in its roof. It can accommodate 250 to 300 faithful. However, about 18 years ago the church was renovated with the expenses paid by the community. Externally, it is built with local, hewed stones. The steeple is built as a part of the church but it is not very tall. Because of the earthquake they chose to preserve the steeple that remained. Internally, the roof has been renovated. It used to be wooden with 3 - 4 meter long arches supporting it, one placed after the other. The arches have been preserved until today as a decorative element but the roof has been converted into a flat one made with cement. The High Altar has also been renovated and also the floor has been covered with square, marble slates. The church is decorated with icons and one hagiography. It is the hagiography that was recently renovated and it is that of Archangel Michael on the church's left wall. All the others are very distorted and poor. The church's icon screen has been replaced by a copy of the previous one. It is woodcut with the icons of the saints placed into it. It has two gates, the "Orea Pyli" (Beautiful Gate, Central) and another one on the right. The wooden Psalters are also present. We will not observe any pulpits but instead we will see an amphitheatre--like, built women's loft surrounding the main temple. To the left there is the entrance to the women's loft with an added, stone-made flight of stairs. The icon dedicated to the church's saint also exists. It is quite old but the exact date that it was created was not made known. However, while conducting efforts for its maintenance, another icon was discovered behind it that was much better than the one on the surface, depicting Apostle Luke sitting down and painting. It is placed in a special icon-stand in the left part of the icon screen. It only moves in order to be adored (kneeling) by the faithful and to be carried around in procession during Apostle Luke's day on the 18 th of October.
The church has a very large yard, covered with slating and having a wall made of built flower-cases, which are tended by people of the Community's Council.
The "Panagia Odigitria" Church
A rather large church made in the 12 th century (1260). It is worth mentioning that Turks inhabited the community along with the Greeks before 1974. According to some information, a pagan temple was standing in this same venue. However, it collapsed due to an earthquake and today's church of the Virgin Mary was constructed in its place with the expenses paid by the villagers. Around the church, to the west and to the south, there are stone-made arches even until today, ruins that is which also testify that perhaps there -in the pagan temple -stood a monastery.
Today's church is located at a small distance of 10 - 15 meters from the temple of Aphrodite. It is in the midst of the village's houses. Externally it is made of stone, taken from the ruins of Aphrodite's temple. The yard's structure is placed at a lower level than that of the surrounding ground and the church's structure is placed even lower.
Internally, the church is enriched with hagiographies. To the right of the icon screen there is the hagiography of Saint Therapontas and -right across from it -to the left of the icon screen there is the hagiography of the faithful donator. One other hagiography bears the representation of Hell, another one at the church's dome of the Almighty, and there is the series of the Prophets and the series of the Twelve Apostles. The icon screen is simple and woodcut. The portable icons of the screen complete the religious wealth of the church. It has two gates, the Beautiful Gate (central) and another one further left from the central one. It is a flat church with no women's loft. The wooden Psalters are also present in its area and the kneeling-desk is at the centre of the main temple, the icon of the Virgin Mary placed upon it. According to some information, the structure seems to be one but a part of it, the main temple and the chancel, is dedicated to Saint Therapontas while the other one to "Panagia Odigitria" (the Guiding Blessed Virgin Mary). The church was later expanded, that is, from the centre of the temple and another 8 meters further from there and so this added part was dedicated to "Panagia Odigitria". One has to pay attention -both internally and externally -to observe this added structure. A liturgy takes place 12 times a year.
Country Church of Saint George
In a venue named "Cha-Potami" (River Cha) and south-east of the village, we will come across the country church of Saint George.
Outside the village and upon the ruins of Saint Catherine's Monastery, this country church was constructed around 1930. It was said that it was a dependency of Saint Catherine of the Mount Sinai. A small and simple country church with a semi-circular roof. It can comfortably host 100 faithful. Externally it is mad with local, hewed stone but internally it is whitewashed. We will not observe any hagiographies and the church's riches consist of the wooden and simple icon screen with the portable icons on it and a single wooden Psalter. The small country church of Saint George is built at a lower level inside a recess of the ground and in order to face it you must approach it at a distance of 200 metres. A liturgy takes place twice a year. Once on Easter Monday and on the 25 th of November.
Country Church of the Saints Constantine and Eleni (Helen).
In the north-east and at a distance of two to three kilometres outside the Community of Kouklia, we will come across the country church of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen standing on the side of a mountain. It is said that a long time ago there was the Monastery of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen. Many monks used to live in that monastery then. During the times of the Turkish rule it was destroyed both internally and externally. It is still used as a pen for livestock. Today however, the "Katholikon" (central) part of the church is still extant. Back then the Christians were not allowed to access the area. About 40 years ago the Department of Antiquities undertook its renovation in the spot where today's church stands. It is made with local, hewed stone externally. The roof above is made of cement, whitewashed and semi-circular. Internally, one can observe the hewed stones on the walls but it is rather poor and humble. The hagiographies cannot be seen very well; they are quite distorted and efforts are being made for their preservation. By the west entrance where the "Narthex" is and to the right, there is a hagiographic representation bearing the "Philoxenia tou Avraam" (Abraham), which is the only one that is preserved and distinct. It has no icon screen but only a couple of icons placed on a chair. In the south part of the country church there is a stream. At a distance of 200 metres from the country church on the mountainside and alongside the stream there is a cell, which seems to be an extension of the monastery. The entrance of the Cell is next to the stream. This cell was not built. It was constructed underground, much different from the cells we are accustomed to. Its entrance is made of stone and -as one ascends the precipice -they dug deep, creating a cave similar to a catacomb. It was covered with hagiographies and they are preserved quite clear until today. If we visit it we will see the tomb that was dug and remains open. It used to host 10 to 15 monks.
A liturgy takes place in the country church once a year on the 21 st of May. The icon dedicated to the Saints is recent and it is kept there, inside the country church.
Chapels / Country Churches of the Kouklia Community in Ruins
Ruins of the Church of Saint Epifanios.
South of the village and amongst the houses there are the ruins of the church of Saint Epifanios. It was an old church. It was constructed in an area inhabited by Turks. The memory of Saint Epifanios is celebrated in the big, central church of the Apostle and Saint Luke.
Ruins of the Church of Saint Nicolas
In the south-west and in the midst of the village's houses lie these ruins or what is left of them, which basically are the foundations of the church of Saint Nicolas. The only things that one can make out from the foundations are the chancel and the main temple. Recently a box was place there by the ruins so that every faithful can light a candle and pray to Saint Nicolas.
Ruins of the "Panagia Faneromeni" Church
In the east side of the village and in the middle of all the little houses there are the ruins of the church of "Panagia Faneromeni". Only the foundations are in existence and no liturgy is performed in it. Recently, after an initiative by a believer, wanting to fulfil a solemn promise, raised a prefabricated house next to the remains of the old church and then some icons were placed in its interior.
On the day of the Virgin Mary, a liturgy takes place and the day is celebrated with a procession of Her Holy Icon in the church of "Panagia Odigitria".
Ruins of the "Agii Pente Martyres" church (The "Five Martyrs" Saints)
North of the Kouklia village and at a distance of 1 to 2 kilometres from it, there lie the ruins of the "Agii Pente Martyres" country church. These are Mardarios, Orestis, Afxentios, Evgenios, and Efstratios. The "Five Martyrs" Saints were from Cappadocia and were passing through Cyprus, got tortured, and martyred for Christendom. Orestis and Efstratios survived the tortures while the other three died. It was said that Efstratios was very well educated, a thing made obvious by some prayers "of midnight and of the third hour". The country church was built in the middle of a plain, next to the river Diarizos. Today only the foundations are extant.
The aircraft carrying the Head of the National Guard, Nikolaos Florakis, had recently crashed in the area where the ruins of the "Agii Pente Martyres" are. The Community desires to build the country church and dedicate it to the "Five Martyrs" Saints.