KORMACIT / KORUCAM / KORMAKITIS
Kormacit is the biggest of the 4 Maronite villages in Cyprus.
THE MARONITE VILLAGES OF CYPRUS
Kormakitis is a picturesque village which lies on the north-western coast of Cyprus, in the Kyrenia district. It marks the northernmost extent of Morphou, while the beautiful town of Kerynia is the nearest coastal town to Kormakitis. Characterized by its sun-bleached houses and silent footpaths, Kormakitis is a spread-out village, buffeted by the sea on one side and enclosed by a verdant, yellow-green plain on the other. It is a place of great beauty and tranquility. The Cape Kormakitis is a very scenic aquatic vista. Although quite stark, is a place to view magnificent sunsets and the mountains of Turkey in the north.
Originally from Lebanon and Syria, today’s Maronite community in Cyprus was shaped by four successive waves of emigration that started in the 8th century. With the Islamic conquests radiating outward from the Arab Peninsula, many Maronites abandoned Syria and Lebanon and settled in Cyprus. In 938, the destruction of St Maron’s Monastery in Lebanon prompted a second wave of refugees. Another three centuries passed and Crusader king Guy de Lusignan purchased Cyprus from Richard the Lionheart, leading the former to import Maronite warriors to the island to protect its coastlines. The last wave of emigration came 100 years later when Acre, last outpost of the Crusader edifice, collapsed and many Maronites came to Cyprus.
Inthe period of 1191-1948, the village of Kormakitis was one of the richest fiefs of the island, which belonged to the French feudal Denores. In 1570, Kormakitis had 850 inhabitants. During the Ottoman rule (1572-1878), the number considerably decreased; in 1841, there were only 200 inhabitants. After the British replaced the Ottomans in Cyprus, the Maronite Community was promoted by the British government, whose policy was to support minorities. Prior to 1974, 1800 Maronites lived in Kormakitis, which was the biggest Maronite village – in population and extent – in Cyprus.
As a result of the events of 1974, the inhabitants of Kormakitis became refugees, while a considerable number decided to live as enclaved, as they considered that the only way to promote their village was by using their properties and lands so as for the others to be motivated and return. In addition to that, their geographical isolation created a kind of mistrust towards the other communities. The failure of the various efforts to solve the Cyprus problem leaves the Maronite community in a state of uncertainty. Once the bustling heart of the Maronite community, Kormakitis today is a small village, with an enclaved population of 120 elderly inhabitants. However, due to the strong feelings and love towards their village, Kormakitis is frequently visited by its previous inhabitants; during the holidays, more than 1000 people visit their village. Also, an increasing number of them repair their village houses, so as to use them as a permanent residence, as the resettlement is largely encouraged by the community. Some middle-aged couples have already moved back in Kormakitis.
Karpashia is located 30km southwest of Kyrenia, on the north it is the village of Myrtou, west the village of Diorios and south the village of Kapouti. The village took its name from the Turkish word “Kurp-Asia” which means near Asia.
Karpashia is the smallest village in population amongst the Maronite villages. In 1778 there were 99 inhabitants whereas in 1973 they numbered 245. Today in Karpashia there are only eleven enclaved people, since the rest of the inhabitants became refugees. The people from Karpashia visit their village regularly to support their enclaved people who are mostly old people.
The church in the village is dedicated to the Holy Cross. Inside the church there are remnants of wall paintings, whereas the icons are dated from the 17th century. There are also two ancient wooden crosses of great value: the one, purely Byzantine, is dated from the 15th century while the other, Cypriot-Byzantine rustic technocracy, is dated from the 17th century. The two crosses constitute one of the most important belongings of the Maronite community, which celebrates the protector of the village on September 14, the day on which St. Helen found the Holy Cross (14th September 320 A.C.).
The Maronite village of Asomatos is situated in the Kyrenia District near the villages of Myrtou, Karpasha and Kambyli. It is the biggest Maronite village after the village of Kormakitis. Before the 1974 war, its inhabitants numbered 527 people, whereas today there are only two octogenarian women still living in the village, inspite of the difficulties they face.
The village is presently used as a military camp. The Maronites may visit the village only on Sundays, with limited time restrictions, for mass in the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. Despite the difficulties, the people of the village attend every Sunday the mass in order to give patience and courage to the octogenarian women to persist hoping for better days.
Ayia Marina is the only Maronite village situated in the Nicosia District, 24 km west of the capital of the island. It took its name from Saint Marina. Before the 1974 invasion, there were about 700 inhabitants in the village of Ayia Marina. Today they are about 1000, scattered all over the island. In the village there are no Maronite inhabitants since 1974 as the village is used as a military camp by the Turkish army and Maronite people are unable to visit and/or use their houses and properties. The people of the village have not been allowed even once to enter the village and have mass in their church, despite the relaxations of movement in 2003.
In the village of Ayia Marina there were living, except from Maronites, some Turkish Cypriots, many of whom were Maronites who became Muslims in an effort to save their lives and properties during the period of the ottoman persecution.