The Feast of Saint Phocas in Athienou


Applicant:

Athienou Municipality, Kallinikeion Municipal Museum of Athienou

 

Communities Concerned - Bearers of the element:

Every year on 21st and 22nd  September, the Athienou Municipality together with the Church Commission celebrate the Feast of the Holy Martyr Saint Phocas, Bishop of Sinope and Patron Saint of the town of Athienou.  Participating at the fair are:

  • Priests, reserve commandos, the 68th Scout Troop of Athienou, the Police Band and large numbers of people participating during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.
  • Street-sellers and artists from Athienou and other parts of Cyprus who sell their goods on the street outside the church as well as on another central street in Athienou (Archbishop Makarios III Avenue).
  • Athienou cultural and other associations that organise cultural events and merchants who sell their products.

 

Domain of Intangible Cultural Heritage:

Oral traditions

Social practices, rituals and festive events

 

Date of inscription:

2017

 

Geographical distribution:

According to oral evidence, the church of Saint Phocas was built in the location where there used to be a shrine to venerate the Saint, or maybe even an older smaller church.  The church of Saint Phocas in Athienou is today the only one in Cyprus.  There are various stories explaining how the memory of the Saint of Sinope has been transferred to be venerated in Athienou. One of these says that he was brought over by pilgrims from Athienou who visited his tomb in Sinope on the Black Sea. There is also a claim that Saint Phocas was actually a local saint who fell into oblivion with the passage of time.

 

Brief description:

The Feast of Saint Phocas has been celebrated each year on 21st and 22nd September since the consecration of the church (1887). The two-day and three-day events include Hierarchical Divine Liturgies, cultural events with the participation of all the cultural associations of the Municipality and the sale of different types of products, just as in the other feasts and fairs in Cyprus.  The inhabitants of Athienou, hundreds of people of Athienou origin living elsewhere on the island or even abroad (diaspora) as well as many other people from all over the island take part in these events. The Saint’s day, 22nd September, is a local holiday in Athienou and it is combined with family and friend gatherings in houses near the church on the occasion of the day’s celebrations.   

In the 20th century, children used to look forward to the fair and the street-sellers, as in those days there were no toy shops in town.  Street-sellers used to sell small animals that were considered necessary for every household, fruit, nuts, and ornamental items for the house, clothes and tools and utensils to be used in agriculture and inside the household.  Others used to cook and sell on the spot delicacies such as “loukoumades” or traditional Cypriot doughnuts and “shiamishi” (traditional desert pastries with semolina and mastic). The women used to fire the ovens in their yards to prepare food such as roast and potatoes, as they expected to receive guests from other parts of the island.

Today, the Feast of Saint Phocas is still one of the most important events in the conscience of all people from Athienou wherever they may be.  For the residents this marks the end of the summer period and the start of the autumn-winter period and is an opportunity for people to get together with their loved ones. It is a religious and cultural feast which constitutes part of the Athienou identity and provides a sense of belonging together.