Bellapais Abbey “The Abbey of Peace”
Bellapais Abbey is a monastery which was first built between the years of 1158-1205 AD by the Canons Regular. The name Bellapais Abbey is derived from the French: Abbaye de la Belle Paix which means “The Abbey of Peace”.
It is located in the village of Bellapais which itself has lovely quaint local cafes, restaurants, tourist shops and old buildings. The Abbey serves as a focal point for the village and hosts music concerts, lectures and shows. Bellapais is approximately five kilometres (three miles) from the town of Kyrenia. The abbey which is perched on the side of a mountain, commands spectacular views down to Kyrenia and the Mediterranean Sea. Opening hours for the Abbey are from 9am to 7:30pm in the summer and 9am to 5pm in the winter. There is an admission charge which goes towards the upkeep of the Abbey.
The layout of Bellapais Abbey
The history of Bellapais Abbey
The Abbey is architecturally Gothic and the area was first settled around the year 1187 by monks from the Augustinian sect who were travelling from Jerusalem. The first building which was the monastery, was built between the years 1198 and 1205, but it was extensively enlarged by the Lusignan King Hugh III between the years 1267 and 1284. The cloister and the refectory surrounding courtyard area were added by King Hugh IV and was completed between periods of 1324 and 1359 AD. Although it has never been excavated, it is probable that the graves of several Lusignan kings rest beneath the floor of the church. This was a popular custom at the time as people believed being buried in the church would bring them closer to God and heaven.
In 1373, the Genoese raided Bellapais and the Abbey and took anything that was of value.
After the Ottomans conquered Cyprus, they gave the monastery the Orthodox Church to use. The Orthodox Church only made small changes, mainly to the interior of the church. They added features like wooden panels and icons.
The British controlled Cyprus from 1878-1960 AD and the British Army initially took control of Bellapais in 1878. During this time they cemented the floor of the refectory so they could use it as a hospital.
After independence from Britain in 1960, Cyprus remained a mixed culture of Greeks, Turks and a small portion of Maronites, until 1974. Since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, in response to the 1974 Cypriot coup d’état and the subsequently introduced UN buffer zone, the Abbey is now part of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Some of the stone work for the Abbey has been salvaged from other sites. A particular striking example of this is the Roman, or possibly Byzantine Column which stands in the Chapter house.
A definite Roman feature are the two Roman sarcophagi which can be found in the forecourt. The cannons used these as a Lavabo which is essentially basin to provide water for the washing of hands. This was normally carried out pre-Mass.
The Church at Bellepais Abbey
The church is one of the most complete sections of the Abbey and has wonderful wooden carvings and exquisitely painted icons.
Enjoy a Traditional Turkish Coffee in Bellepais
Once you’ve finished looking around the abbey, why not kick back and relax with a traditional Turkish coffee in the Dut ağacı Kahvehanesi (Mulberry Tree Coffeehouse) which can be found right at the exit of the Abbey. The owner, Mr Refet has been working here for a long time and will always greet you with a smile. You can also buy ice cold drinks, lager or ice-creams. It’s also a great place to view the abbey from.
Restaurants and Shops
There are also other restaurants and shops you may choose to visit in the area. The shops are mainly tourist gift shops where you may find something nice to remember your visit by.
Parking at the Abbey
Because Bellapais is a very old village, the road into the village is quite narrow and has old Cypriot houses each side. However the parking at the Abbey is well located, large and there are usually several parking spaces available.
Photo’s of the Abbey