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Title: Bellapais Abbey - Well Worth A Visit

The Monastery of Peace or Abbaye de la Paix as Bellapais Abbey was originally known is one of the most excellent examples of Lusignan period Gothic architecture in the Near East.

It is located in the pretty town of Bellapais just 10 minutes from the bustling town of Kyrenia and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Cyprus.  Made famous in part by Lawrence Durrell and his book ‘Bitter Lemons’, the abbey is simply not to be missed.

Originally the site of the abbey was home to Augustinian monks from around 1187 with construction of the Abbey or monastery building beginning in 1198 and taking some seven years.  Further significant construction work took place on the monastery during the reign of King Hugh III of France between 1267 and 1284 and then during the reign of King Hugh IV between 1324 and 1359. 

The Order of Brothers of Premontre who were the original occupants named the monastery Abbaye de la Paix, but the name was corrupted by the Venetians to Bella Paise and then later it became known as Bellapaix before finally morphing to Bellapais Abbey which is the name we know it by today. 

Following the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus the monastery at Bellapais was handed to the Greek Orthodox Church and the monks were ‘removed.’

Perched high on a natural platform on the side of a mountain with unrivalled, uninterrupted and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, the pretty village of Ozankoy, the town of Kyrenia and the entire north coast the Abbey is one of the best preserved and well maintained attractions in Northern Cyprus.

Houses with views of the stunning and magnificent abbey at Bellapais are so in demand that there are waiting lists for future developments in the area, and if you were in any doubt of the abbey’s magnificence and appeal, visit at night when the whole structure is lit from below and it towers above the whole of the world before it. 

If you visit Bellapais you will be able to enjoy the whole abbey as once inside you’re free to explore all areas; look out for the intricate stone carvings, the delicate murals, the immaculately preserved 13th century church, impressive columns and unforgettable eighteen arches as well as the incredible views.

The history and features of the abbey are detailed in free brochures available from the tourist information and ticket kiosk at the abbey...but it is maybe best described in Durrell’s own words: -

“Bellapaix, even in ruins, was a testimony to those who had tried, however imperfectly, to grasp and retain their grip on the inner substance of the imagination, which resides in thought, in contemplation, in peace.”

Once you’ve spent a couple of hours taking in the fine abbey and the really amazing views you can retire to one of the cafes nearby and soak up the ambience and relaxed atmosphere that Northern Cyprus is equally famed for.  And in Bellapais you’ll find the Tree of Idleness, made world famous in ‘Bitter Lemons.’

‘Bitter Lemons’ describes Durrell’s experiences of Bellapais in the 1950’s and how he bought a house in the town which was badly in need of restoration...he also introduced the reader to the concept of the Tree of Idleness.  Legend in Northern Cyprus has it that those who sit under the tree will become lethargic and so relaxed that they will be unwilling to work and Durrell was struck by how true this legend seemed! 

I have to say it is definitely true because after whiling a way a couple of hours at the abbey, then strolling through the pretty town of Bellapais, spending a while visiting Durrell’s old haunts you’ll be loath to move from your Tree of Idleness cafe side seat!

Come and see for yourself!

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