St. Nicholas of the Cats—Ayios Nikolaos ton Gaton—Monastery

Akrotiri, sw of Limassol Cyprus

Greek Orthodox

The monastery, founded in AD 325, is the second oldest in Cyprus; the church dates from the 1200s. (St. Nicholas is said to have established the Monastery of Iereon before he was called to Myra.) St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, landed here in AD 328, finding the place swarming with poisonous snakes. She sent a shipload of cats to get rid of the snakes. The cats were fed a bit of meat morning and night to limit their intake of venom. The snakes were vanquished, people returned and fishermen fished. The St. Nicholas Day catch was given to the monastery to assure a good year. Ever since the cape is called Cape Gata for the cats. Monks lived in the monastery until 1570, perishing in the Turkish invasion. After several revials and periods of neglect, nuns came in 1983. They care for hundreds of cats, with some government help for the food.

Click to see more cats