Portrait of a Cypriot Village – Koilani

Among Krasochoria in Limassol, Koilani is one of the most famous, with a rich, long historical tradition and cultural heritage. It is built in the eastern part of Afamis and its vineyards cover a vast area, lying adjacent to Omodos, Madria, Pera Pedi, Sylikou, Lofou and Vouni. There are remnants and place names from ancient times in the village. It is an Arcadian colony, which is attested to by many place names. The name “Koilani” comes from Kyllini in the Peloponnese, Mount Afamis from Euphemus Zeus in Arcadia, as well as Kremmos of Goddess Ira.
There were found several tombs with Roman pots. There are also remnants from the Early Christian Times, the Frankish Period, the Turkish Occupation, and of course our island’s recent history. According to Dean Kyprianos, author of “The Chronological History of the Island of Cyprus,” who came from Koilani, at the time of the Turkish Occupation, the village used to have about a thousand houses, was granted permission to produce and process silk, and it paid–along with other villages–a special tax for the army. There are also mentioned its products: grapes, wine, fruit and vegetables, just like today. It also boasted lowland products, coming from the fields in Paramali. Koilani was the capital of the prefecture of Koilanion, one of the sixteen administrative peripheries into which the Turks divided Cyprus for administrative and tax purposes. It held the same position during the Frankish Occupation, which it kept during the British Period up until the ‘40s.
During the British Occupation, Koilani was an administrative centre with a Register, Court, Police Station, Medical Centre, and a Post Office. It also boasted a number of small industries and labs, such as blacksmith’s shops, shoemaker’s shops and carpenter’s shops. At home, women had silkworms, produced silk, wove and manufactured handkerchiefs, breeches and belts. They also embroidered pipilla, crochet, lefkaritika, and many more. Their textiles were exquisite, and they also made the noted eftaliotika handkerchiefs.
Down, in the verdant valley, the River Kryos peacefully flows, irrigating the gardens full of apple trees, pear trees and other fruitful trees.
In older times, the river waters turned the flourmills, which constituted an important part of the village’s trade. People used to come from the surrounding villages to have their wheat ground and shop, or even make transactions at the governmental offices. All this attracted people from the surrounding villages and brought liveliness and mobility.
Justifiably, Koilani was the name of the village capital of Krasochoria and Koilanion Prefecture. Up until 1946, the village had a population of 1,300 Greek and 85 Muslim inhabitants. The Muslims had their mosque and a muezzin, as well as a school with 2 teachers. The mosque used to be a Christian temple of Aghia Sophia. Our primary school had 230 students and 5 teachers back in 1946. The social phenomenon of urbanisation from the ‘50s, which still goes on today, literally evacuated the village. Seldom are there any weddings held, while our primary school has been left with two, at times one, teachers. Nowadays, it does not operate.
The two churches of the village, the one dedicated to Holy Mary (Panaghia) and the other to the Only Begotten Son of God (Monoghenis), with the two priests each, nowadays operate in turn, for there are a few people and there is only one priest. We nostalgically reminisce about life in the village, back in those hard but beloved years, when toil and hard work took the sting out of any human impiety and selfishness. Human relations were cordial, entertainment was a match for the masses’ happiness, and pain was common ground.
Despite its desolation, the village still maintains most of its former characteristics. Up until now, it has retained its traditional architecture, since new houses are rarely built. Its characteristic style includes its narrow, uphill alleys, with many impasses. In addition, high walls with gates, arched, vaulted or rectangular, lie imposing, shutting small yards away from prying eyes. It is evident that family asylum was of utmost importance and was highly protected.
The whole village is densely built, literally squeezed into whole blocks with terraced houses, adjacent to each other. Decades ago, housewives used to whitewash their walls, adding the noted blue (loulaki), which gave a bright blue hue. The women of Koilani are characterised by neatness, industriousness and prudence. They work in the vineyards, in the home, while in earlier times they used to weave and knit the noted pipilla or the crochet of smilios, and many more. Today, the ones left behind continue with the same deftness all the traditional works, such as the needlecraft, the rusks, glytzista, and keep our folklore tradition.
Men are equally hardworking and neat. Deep inside of them, there is unique love for progress and diligence, which positively contributed to Koilani’s having so many successful inhabitants, who nowadays comprise the Cypriot society. It is noteworthy that this tradition has deep roots. Koilani is the birthplace of Dean Kyprianos, the 18th century enlightened scholar who wrote “The Chronological History of the Island of Cyprus,” as well as Archbishop Paisios.
Their oblations bear testament to their love for their village. An epitaph offered by Dean Kyprianos and vestments by Archbishop Paisios are still with us in the Holy Temple of the Only Son (Monoghenis). Besides, Koilani is the birthplace of Scholar Leontios Efstratios, Anthemios Patriarch of Antiochia, Ecumenical Patriarch Gerasimos Kassavetis and Metropolitan of Dimitrias, Athanasios Kassavetis. Teacher Constantinos Michaelidis (Koilaniefs) fought and got killed in Kilkis in 1912, during the Balkan Wars. Maintaining its old architecture, its inhabitants’ traditional pastimes, with all those tools and utensils of viticulture and the processing of grapes, the village could be said to constitute in itself a Museum, where tradition is kept immutable and long-established works are effortlessly adjusted to new conditions.
Wandering around the village, the visitor gets a feel for times past and lives the peace of another era. In Koilani’s two museums, the Ecclesiastical and the Viticultural one, there remain notable samples of our ecclesiastical tradition and folk art. Apart from the two churches, the village boasts many chapels. The most noted one is that dedicated to Saint Mavri (Aghia Mavri), with significant murals and unusual architecture, under the huge plane tree in a majestic environment. The Association of Koilanians, from the very first years of its foundation, in collaboration with the Community Council, endeavours to revive the village, while maintaining its characteristics.
In this vein, the Association helped build two museums and restore the olive mill, while the Department of Antiquities maintained the little church of Aghia Mavri and the Only Begotten Son of God, made cobbled paths, and many more. Besides, there has been an attempt to bring life and mobility to the village, while offering Koilanian emigrants and friends the opportunity to get together. In this framework, Afamia, Palouze’s celebration, is held at the first weekend of October.
Afamia had already become an institution. Against a beautiful, autumn backdrop, where aromas of grapes and must waft in the air, Koilani celebrates its most exquisite event and invites everyone to join in. It invites them to enjoy a great artistic programme, try the Koilanian palouze, walk along the village’s roads and alleys, visit its museums, churches, school, police station, where painting and photography exhibitions are hosted, and buy products from their source: rusks, soutsouko, nuts, molasse (epsima), raisins, and many more. It also celebrates the opening of the jars (Pithoigia) in November. The village and Aghia Mavri also boast five wineries and several cafe-restaurants.
Koilani is waitng for you to pay a visit.

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