Machairas Monastery 1957

Machairas Monastery 2020

“There was dancing, and singing, and smoking, can you imagine!” says the bespectacled Father Linos, referring to the tourist activities that once took place within the grounds of the now immaculately manicured Machairas Monastery. He glances towards the Bishop responsible for arresting this decay and revitalising the surroundings and several other monasteries on the Island. Father Linos’s superior comes from a lineage of Athonite monastics whose inspiration has invigorated Orthodox Monasticism throughout the world: Saint Paisios, Saint Silouan, Father Sophrony and Elder Joseph. When we gather to feast, following a long night service dedicated to these holy men, their icons look down on us benevonently.

All saints are human, but not all humans are saints.

During the night I spend in the monastery I’m completely unaware of a piece of modern history pertaining to my own country. During the “Cyprus Emergency,” the rebellion against the British for Greek Cypriot union (Enosis) with Greece, the monastery sheltered and supported one of the most wanted men on the Island. 

Gregoris Afxentiou was second in command to the EOKA rebellion leader, General Georgios Grivas and as a result of his gun running and sabotage activities a bounty of 5,000 pounds was placed on his head.

On the 4th March 1957 Afxentiou was burnt alive in a cave hideout just below the monastery. Locally he’s remembered as a patriot and freedom fighter who, in a letter to his wife, vowed to “Fight and fall like a Greek.” Betrayed by a shepherd during local intelligence gathering he fought sixty British soldiers for eight hours, point blank refusing, unlike the four men with him, to surrender his life. As a tenacious fighter, he withstood machine gun fire, tear gas and explosives; only succumbing to death when the cave was filled with petrol and lit up with a flame thrower. Seen as a major British publicity coup at the time film of the fight survives to this day (see photos underneath).

In another film one of the men who fought alongside him tearfully remembers the words of Afxentiou’s father when asked why he showed no sorrow during the funeral of his son: “You cannot let the dogs see you crying.”

During the Cyprus Emergency 372 British soldiers died on active service and during the gun battle at Machairas Monastery British Corporal Brown, P of the Duke of Wellington’s was shot dead. He is buried at Wayne’s Keep Cemetery, a contested area within today’s buffer zone where British troops under the UN patrol unto this day.
A book of detailed descriptions of Human Rights Violations committed by British Forces includes the following protest from the Archbishop of Cyprus regarding the treatment of the Abbot of Machairas Monastery:

Burning Afexentiou in a flame thrower

EOKA fighter surrenders.

Funeral of Cpl. Brown, P.

Grave of Cpl. Brown.

Posted  by Marc Perry
Categories: Blog


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *