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Saint Hilarion Castle

THE CASTLE WITH 101 ROOMS


An imaginative folk legend that was spread locally says that St Hilarion housed 101 rooms of which 100 could easily be found but the last door which supposedly opened to an enchanting garden with a magnificent treasure that is believed to belong to an elusive “queen” of Cypriot folklore, most probably a holdover of Aphrodite worship, is yet to be found. If one somehow stumbled through the magic door into the 101st room one would wake up years later with empty hands among bare rocks.


The story goes that one day a group of young people went to visit the castle. That day, by chance, coincided with the “Wish Day”. They were all very happy because they knew that on this day whatever they wished would come true. Luckily for them the door of the 101st room that was shut for 40 years was to open as well so that they could enter the treasure room and take whatever they fancied. When the door opened and the young men entered the room their eyes were dazzled by the glitter of the treasure that included diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, jades, gold etc.

Immediately the greediness in them came to the fore and they began to argue as to who was to take what when one item for each of them would have been more than enough. Under those circumstances selfishness prevailed and whoever took the crown wanted to take the sceptre as well and he who had the sceptre fought to take the sword also.

In that turmoil they lost sense of time and failed to realize that they were fast running out of time and that the doors would soon shut. Indeed, before long the door slammed shut and locked. Trapped in the room they slept for the next 40 years. When 40 years later the door opened again they woke up and walked out of the room and made their way to their village totally oblivious of what had hap-pened. When they reached the village what they saw shocked them to the core and froze them to the bone. While they had remained the same age after forty years their beloved children and spouses had aged 40 years and their dear parents and some of their peers had longed passed away.
The moral of the legend: Do not be motivated by greed, selfishness and avarice.

THE CRUEL QUEEN OF THE SAINT HILARION CASTLE
St. Hilarion, the fairy tale-looking castle, was built towards the end of the 11th century by Re-gaena, the Byzantine queen. Although she was the most beautiful lady in entire Cyprus, alas, she was also the most heartless and cruel. Being a selfish and greedy woman she desired to have the most beautiful and elaborate castle on the island.
When the building work started Queen Regaena insisted on personally overseeing the construction of the castle herself. She wanted to ensure that no detail was overlooked. Queen Regaena realized that in planning such a large and magnificent castle she would need a large workforce. So she sent her men out and told them to gather as many strong and sturdy men as they could from near and far and bring them to work to build her castle.


The castle being built on the the peak of the mountain required that men formed lines, standing side by side, so that they could pass the materials of sand and gravel and stones etc from man to man until they reached their assigned destination. This was a very tough task since most of the materials had to be transported from the valley to the summit of the mountain. She was so ruthless that she would barely allow the workers to have a break from work. All she cared for was to complete the castle in her lifetime so that she could enjoy it. Finally the glorious castle was completed and she named it St. Hilarion. Those who beheld it were impressed by its unsurpassed grandeur. Although Queen Regaena’s dream had come true and she had every reason to be joyful she could not help but torment herself with a disturbing thought.
Queen Regaena, having amassed a huge fortune of gold and wealth in her family treasury, now feared that the workers who constructed the castle would remember the secret passages that led to the hidden location of the royal treasure room and scheme to steal it from her. So she sat in a chamber in the western wing of the castle and thought of a plan to prevent possible robbery. This particular chamber had a window which opened onto an enormous cliff with a very steep face which provided a breathtaking view of the valley far below.


Sitting at this window and looking down the precipice she devised an evil plan to protect her treasure.
When time to implement her plan, one after-noon, she told her soldiers to summon all the men strong and sturdy men as they could from near and far and bring them to work to build her castle.
The castle being built on the the peak of the mountain required that men formed lines, standing side by side, so that they could pass the materials of sand and gravel and stones etc from man to man until they reached their assigned destination. This was a very tough task since most of the materials had to be transported from the valley to the summit of the mountain. She was so ruthless that she would barely allow the workers to have a break from work. All she cared for was to complete the castle in her lifetime so that she could enjoy it. Finally the glorious castle was completed and she named it St. Hilarion. Those who beheld it were impressed by its unsurpassed grandeur. Although Queen Regaena’s dream had come true and she had every reason to be joyful she could not help but torment herself with a disturbing thought.


Queen Regaena, having amassed a huge fortune of gold and wealth in her family treasury, now feared that the workers who constructed the castle would remember the secret passages that led to the hidden location of the royal treasure room and scheme to steal it from her. So she sat in a chamber in the western wing of the castle and thought of a plan to prevent possible robbery. This particular chamber had a window which opened onto an enormous cliff with a very steep face which provided a breathtaking view of the valley far below.
Sitting at this window and looking down the precipice she devised an evil plan to protect her treasure.
When time to implement her plan, one after-noon, she told her soldiers to summon all the men who together had worked on the castle. They were told that they were invited to come to the castle for the purpose of receiving their pay for their dedication to the queen and for the work they had so conscientiously performed in building the castle.

Once they arrived Queen Regaena posted guards at the entrance of the western chamber wing and ordered them to call the workers into her chamber one by one to receive their pay. None of those who entered the chamber came out because the heartless queen had ordered her guards to kill the workers by throwing them off the cliff outside her chamber.
After she killed all of them her sleepless nights came to an end because neither the plan of the castle nor her treasure was any longer in danger of being stolen. One final note: the whereabouts of Queen Regaena’s treasure still remains unknown.
Since then the window from where the workers were thrown out and met their maker has been called the “Queen’s window”. Incidentally, the shepherds and the inhabitants of Templos would traditionally call their female dogs Regina and their male dogs Reks, inspired by the royal people who resided in the castles.

THE LEGEND OF THE QUEEN OF SAINT HILARION CASTLE AND THE UGLY SHEPHERD
According to legend there lived a queen in the castle with 101 rooms. She was so stunningly beautiful that those who were lucky enough to see her were bewitched by her beauty. But despite of her exquisite beauty and the immense wealth she possessed she was very lonely and unhappy. She spent her idle time combing her golden hair as she sat on the edge of the queen’s window and gazed out in sullen silence or going for a walk alone in the nearby forest. In the mountain there also lived a goatherd who, every day, took his goats to the pastures on the mountains to graze on the grass.


The goatherd was an unbelievably ugly man but to his credit he was a master at playing the reed flute.
Because of his repulsive appearence he deliberately stayed away from people and lived almost like a hermit. Having listened to the romantic music from the goatherder’s reed flute for so long the queen developed an irresistable urge to find him so she started to search for him. Eventually she found him and befriended him. As time went by their friendship developed into a love relationship.

They began to spend not only the days but also the nights together. The beautiful queen who wore the most nice-smelling perfumes was so much in love with him that she happily slept in the arms of the goatherder whose entire body was as hairy as a bear and smelled like a billy-goat.

The queen became pregnant and when time came she gave birth to a lovely girl with blond hair and sky-blue eyes. When she reached the age of
15-16 she dazzled everyone with her beauty that outshone that of her mother’s. Bored to death in the castle she started to go out into the forest for a walk, like her mother once did, where she would collect wild flowers including tulips, daffodils and calendulas. Her mother, being overly fond of her, warned her not to wander to far away places where she might come face to face with perilous things.
But fate had plans for the girl and the queen.

One day as the princess wandered the mountain aimlessly she heard a reed flute playing a song that touched her heart. From that moment on she had a strong desire to find the guy who played the flute with such great feeling that it made her heart throb. Well as the saying of “he/she who seeks finds” goes she eventually found the goatherder.


Bewitched by his music she started to spend long hours with him. Getting suspicious of her daughter’s frequent and long absence from the castle the queen questioned her and demanded an explana-tion. The princess tried to avoid her mother’s questions but then told her the bitter truth. The queen was so shocked to learn that her daughter was with the ugly shepherd (her father) and was in fact in love with him that the comb in her hand fell from the “Queen’s window and then without a word she jumped out of the window into the precipice and killed herself.

The inhabitants of the village of Templos take a deep sigh and say “the lonely queen is combing her golden yellow hair again “whenever they see a few of the sun’s rays peek through the black winter clouds that hover upon the summits of the Kyrenia mountains”.

Ali Nesim- Şevket Öznur