Makarios was born Michail Charalambous Papaioannou in Prodromos, Lemesos province, in 1870. In 1895, he was ordained a deacon and left Cyprus to further his studies. He studied at the Great School of the Nation in Istanbul before entering the Seminary of Chalki.
Makarios was elected Archbishop of Cyprus, without an opponent, on December 24, 1947, despite the opposition of the political left for his staunch pro-Enosis stand. To this end Makarios came up with the idea of a Church-held referendum throughout Cyprus on January 15, 1950 which showed that 97% of the electorate favoured Enosis.