The history of the area, and the history


The archaeological site of Skouriotissa

The famous Skouriotissa mine is situated south of Soloi area and is one of the oldest known copper mines in the world, already reported in Homer's time. This famous mine, which is nowadays called Foucasa, is situated in the semi-mountainous area of contemporary Solea, between the villages of Katydata and Agios Nicolaos. The mine and the surrounding area were in recent times also called Skouriotissa, a name deriving from the impressive residues of smelting copper (slag), dated back to the Roman era. Copper mining continues there until today.

Due to the existence of this mine, the area was populated from the early Bronze Age. In 1918, there were archaeological excavations in the area, which brought to light 100 ancient tombs and several amphorae of the Bronze Age. Recent research has also proved that a settlement of the Prehistoric Era existed in the area, as well as a Roman settlement and a cemetery. Generations of Cypriots have worked incessantly, often under adverse conditions, in the dark galleries of the Skouriotissa mine.

At the time of the last Great Persecution of Christians and around year 310, given also the "damnatio ad metalla" law, many Christian convicts were exiled from Palestine to Cyprus because of their faith and were sentenced to hard labor both at the Skouriotissa and other mines of the island.

The most recent settlement of Skouriotissa

Skouriotissa is in fact a mining settlement, which was created next to the mine of the same name. Its residents were almost all workers, employees or managerial staff of the mine from various areas of Cyprus. In the beginning of the 20th century, when transport was rudimentary, the workers lived in the small houses built there by the company. Later, when transport improved, many used to travel to and from their villages by bus.

The Skouriotissa settlement is also called "settlement sixty" because it comprises of 60 houses. These houses were built in a uniform way, in a forest area, each comprising of three rooms. After 1974, the settlement was abandoned as a region bordering the occupied areas and as a "dead zone" and so the abandoned buildings gradually collapsed.

Currently, the village is the headquarters of peacekeepers overseeing the dead zone, which begins a bit further down. Officers of the detachment of the Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) currently live in the very luxurious houses of the then managerial staff of the mine.

The holy monastery of Panagia Skouriotissa

In the area of the settlement the famous, historic monastery of Panagia Skouriotissa can also be found, with only its main church (“katholiko”) still remaining today, preserved in the way it was built during the Turkish rule, alongside some more recent cells, which are currently in the area of the camp of the Argentinian peacekeepers. It is important to note that the wider area (including settlement sixty), belonged to the said monastery and after its dissolution became the property of the Morphou Metropolis.

The Skouriotissa Police Station currently part of the Holy Retreat of Saint Seraphim of Sarov

A police station existed in the settlement, as did an elementary school named after the settlement and thus also called “sixty.”

In 2001, with the encouragement of Morphou Metropolitan Bishop Neophytos, the Russian Archimandrite Amvrosios Gorelov moved into the old police station. A talented hagiographer living an ascetic life he soon became the spiritual father of many living in Cyprus - Greek Cypriots, Russians, Georgians and others. With the blessing of the Morphou Metropolitan Bishop and the approval of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus, the police station became a Holy Retreat of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Moreover, today, the stone Church of Saint Seraphim is being completed in the area of the Retreat, the first monastery church in 100 years to be built entirely of stone.

The Retreat, where two monks currently reside and where holy services take place daily, has become a spiritual center but also a center for the teaching of Orthodox Ecclesiastic Art (hagiography, religious architecture, stone sculpture, wood-carving) as well as traditional organic farming and winery (producing wine for Holy Communion).

The settlement's Elementary School

It is believed that the school was built in 1945 and had only one teacher. Its students consisted only of the children of Greek Cypriot miners who lived in settlement sixty. Several important people graduated from the school to become, in later years, professors, teachers, policemen as well as civil servants.

The school building deteriorated over time following the fate of the rest of the small houses of the abandoned settlement. However, it was the Morphou Metropolitan Bishop's Neophytos vision to restore it as an education center, teaching traditional arts, so that it would contribute to the revival of tradition and to the instruction of a younger generation in a more natural way of life, knowledge that is much sought after by Cypriots today. With their generous donation, the George and Kaity David, realized the Bishop's dream. The George and Kaity David Foundation and V. Atsas Organic Products Ltd, as the Educational Center's two sponsors shouldered the full expense and responsibility for the restoration, renovating the elementary school building while maintaining its original structure and appearance.

It must be noted here that in the area that constitutes the delta of Klarios (Karkotis) river, there is an organic olive grove that belongs to the Holy Metropolis of Morphou. The nearby stream, Atsas, after which the above Educational Center was named, is a tributary of Klarios.

The school was rented by V. Atsas Organic Products Ltd Company and was ceded to the Atsas Training Center with the aim of serving an educational purpose: of responding to the educational needs of the residents of villages in mountainous and lowland Morphou.

The design of the Training Center's interior is in compliance with the requirements and standards of the HRDA (Human Resource Development Authority), with the ultimate goal of receiving, after evaluation, the certification of the HRDA as Vocational Training Facility.

The term Vocational Training Facility conveys that the building and its facilities fulfill the requirements for organizing Vocational Training. The Vocational Training Facilities have the authority to host subsidized, co-financed and HRDA specialized training activities.

On July the 27th 2015, Atsas Training Center applied to HRDA for its approval as a Vocational Training Facility. In the meantime the building was completed and equipped according to the HRDA requirements as specified in the "Guide of Policy and Procedures for Vocational Training Facilities and the Assessment and Certification System of HRDA (ΑξιοΠιστοΣυν)". On Saturday, July the 2nd 2016, the assessment of the Atsas Training Center was carried out by two HRDA auditors. On Tuesday, the 11th of July 2016, HRDA pronounced that the Atsas Training Center application number D000675 has been approved and Atsas Training Center is now a certified HRDA Vocational Training Facility.

On September the 18th 2015, Atsas Training Center applied to HRDA for approval as a Vocational Training Center, with the application number K000511. In the meantime the Center's procedural and quality manual was prepared according to the requirements of the Guide of Policy and Procedures for Vocational Training Centers and the Assessment and Certification System of HRDA (ΑξιοΠιστοΣυν).

Vocational Training Centres are bodies which have the ability, the resources, the administrative infrastructure for providing professional training in the frame- Lifelong learning. Vocational Training Centres include Institutions and Training Organizations as well as Business. Only certified Vocational Training Centres by HRDA can implement subsidized and/or co-finance training activities.

The Atsas Training Centre assessment audit was carried out by two External HRDA Auditors on the 5th of July 2016. On the 5th of August HRDA pronounced that Atsas Training Centre with code number K000511 was certified as a Vocational Training Centre.

The Atsas Training Center will soon begin its operation, under the hospitable roof of the renovated Elementary School of Skouriotissa. It will develop and implement various training seminars including instruction in and application of organic farming practices and the standardization of regional products, while it will also provide seminars on various subjects such as nutrition, Mediterranean diet, food labelling and subjects of general interests. Through a breadth of activities and events, the Centre will help improve the lives of residents in the area, promote Lifelong Learning and contribute to the revival of tradition, of the "old ways" of maintaining a more authentic, balanced and natural life-style, thus adding value to our everyday life.