Archbishop Kyprianos of Cyprus

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Archbishop Kyprianos of Cyprus was the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Cyprus at the time that the Greek War of Independence broke out.

Kyprianos was born in Strovolos in 1756. He served as a monk in the monastery of Machairas until 1783 when he left for Wallachia to further his theological studies. He returned to Cyprus in 1802.

In 1818, Kyprianos was initiated into the Friendly Society (Filiki Eteria) which was preparing the ground for war and liberation from the Ottoman Empire. In 1820, Alexander Ypsilantis sent word to the archbishop that he would like for Cyprus to join in the armed struggle. Kyprianos' reply was pragmatic: He suggested that Cyprus support the upcoming revolution with money and supplies as any armed struggle would surely end in disaster for an isolated island like Cyprus with no navy and tradition of Klepht warfare like the rest of the Greek world.

However, when the Greek War of Independence broke out on March 25, 1821, Cypriots left by the hundreds to fight on the Greek mainland while proclamations were distributed in every corner of the island. The local pasha, Kucuk Mehmet, reacted with fury, calling in reinforcements, confiscating weapons and arresting several important Cypriots. Archbishop Kyprianos was told to leave by his friends as the situation worsened but he refused to do so. Finally, on July 9, 1821 Kucuk Mehmet had the gates to the walled city of Lefkosia closed and executed, by beheading or hanging, 470 important Cypriots amongst them Metropolitans Chrysanthos of Paphos, Meletios of Kition and Lavrentios of Kyrenia. Archbishop Kyprianos was hanged on a tree across from the former palace of the Lusignan Kings of Cyprus.

The national poet of Cyprus, Vasilis Michailidis wrote, many years after the fact, a poem to capture the dignity and bravery of the Archbishop as he faced Kucuk Mehmet:

«Η ρωμιοσύνη εφ φυλή συνότζιαιρη του κόσμου
Κανένας εν ευρέθηκεν για να την ιξηλείψη
Κανένας, γιατί σιέπει την ‘που τα’άψη ο Θεός μου.
Σφάξε μας ούλους τζ’ ας γενεί το γαίμαμ μας αυλάτζιν,
Κάμε τον κόσμον ματζιελειόν τζαι τους ρωμιούς τραούλια,
Αμμά ‘ξερε πως ύλαντρον όντας κοπή καβάτζιν,
Τριγύρω του πετάσσουνται τρακόσια παραπούλια.
Το ’νιν ανταν να τρω τηγ γην τρώει τηγ γηθ θαρκέται,
Μα πάντα τζιείνον τρώεται τζαι τζιείνον καταλιέται.»