Saint Helena and the Blue Cat
by Zoe Blue
When St. Helena (also Empress Helena) came upon Cyprus, it was in the midst of a serious drought. It was 327 AD, and the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas was being built, but people were fleeing the island and its deadly heat and poisonous snake infestation. She solved the problem by ordering a ship filled with cats from Egypt and Palestine delivered to the island, and the cats went to work, doing their significant part to make Cyprus the beautiful island it is now–full of strays that everyone feeds and who have no problem hopping up to the empty seat at your table in a restaurant to see if they might like some of what you’re eating. The monks kept the cats on at the monastery, using a bell to dispatch them to snake hunting and also to call them in for a house meal. The monastery is now known as the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the Cats, but it houses cats and nuns now.
The flower she carries is Sedum Anacampseros, the Evergreen Orpine, which according to Curtis’ botanical magazine “grows spontaneously in rock crevices.” Here, St. Helena brings life back to the island, astride her blue cat. The building in the back is part of a medieval church destroyed when Turkey began its occupation of the northern half of the island in 1974.