Panteleimon, born in 275, was the son of a rich Pagan father and Christian mother and, although instructed in Christianity by his mother, after her death he reverted to Paganism and studied medicine. A Saint Hermolaus convinced him that Christ was a better healer of the sick than the physicians of their time and re-converted him to Christianity. Following the healing of a blind man by prayer alone he converted his father, upon whose death he inherited a large fortune that he used for charitable purposes. After being denounced to the authorities he was condemned to death in 303.
In around 1600 two Lapta monks founded the monastery following a visit to the Monastery of St Panteleimon on Mount Athos in Macedonia. They originally found nowhere suitable, so they sat down and prayed to the Saint to help them. As they prayed water appeared from between some stones beside them, making them realise that this was the spot they were looking for. A small church, dedicated to Saint Panteleimon, was built with some rooms for themselves. An icon of the saint was placed in the church along with his holy bones brought from Mount Athos.
There is little remaining of the church that was gradually extended mainly in the 17th and 18th centuries but earlier visitors described it as “having a remarkable loggia of pointed arches and vaulting on the south side. The loggia was probably built by the person whose altar shaped tomb was under the centre arch. The interior of the church was adorned with a very fine iconostasis of carved and gilt woodwork. Many of the icons were said to be above average in workmanship. The altar and baldachin are made of wood and were decorated with interesting paintings and inscriptions. The chapel of Ayios Panteleimon was divided off from the rest of the interior by an elegant iron screen.” The Saint’s day was celebrated on the 27th July.
In 1880 Bishop Chrysanthos of Kyrenia, who had no Episcopal residence, rented a suite of rooms in the monastery for the use of himself, his archdeacon, and chaplain. The monastery thus became the residence of the bishop until 1917. It was extensively refurbished in the 1920s.
It is easy to assume that damage to the monastery was a result of the intercommunal fighting of the ’50s and ’60s and the Peace Operation of ’74. But the truth is that, in the 1950s, the Church decided that it was responsible for the upkeep of too much land and too many buildings resulting in it abandoning some properties and selling the attached lands.
Panteleimon was such a property. It was left to the ravages of nature, and although Myrtou/Çamlibel was then a Greek Cypriot village, the monastery was left derelict – though there is a rumour that it became part of a Greek Cypriot Barracks. After 1974, the monastery found itself inside a military area, which sealed its fate for some time.
However, renovation started in 2010 with a major clearance of undergrowth, although full renovation will take a number of years.
Following a visit, facilitated by the Slovak Embassy, by representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties in November 2013 to the extremely dilapidated Monastery of St. Panteleimon in Çamlibel it is expected that a tender for its restoration and reconstruction will be launched in the second half of 2014. The group were demonstrating their public support for the conservation of cultural and religious heritage sites in Cyprus. Tiziana Zennaro, from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said that there is a funding of 2 million euro available for a range of cultural heritage projects on Cyprus which are part of a 4 mollion budget that the European Commission has allocated for reconstruction works all over Cyprus. When
asked about her estimate for the funds required to restore the monastery, Zennaro said that this will depend on a technical assessment report, expected in the first half of 2014. The deadline for the report tender is in January next year and based on that assessment, a tender for reconstruction works in part of the monastery will take place later the same year, possibly in June or July.
Alessandra Viezzer, Head of the European Commission Team for the implementation of the Aid Programme, said that the monastery of St. Panteleimon has been included in a list of this year’s urgent reconstruction projects prepared by the bicommunal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. She added that the Commission, working together with the UN programme ‘Partnership for the Future’, has been supporting such projects since the Technical Committee was establishment in 2008.
Takis Hadjidemetriou, the Greek Cypriot president of the Committee, reported that following approval of a bid, work has begun at the church in Melandrina church in Kalograia near Esentepe.