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Lefkara

Kato (Lower) Lefkara is a village of the Larnaca district and it is located about 34 kilometres south-west of the city of Larnaca.

The community is built on an average altitude of 480 metres. The terrain is hilly and the altitude in the north-east of the settlement reaches up to 417 metres ("Shinokefalos" hilltop). The landscape is fragmented by the rivers Syrkatis and Argaki, and of St. Minas, all tributaries of the Pentaschoinos river.

Kato Lefkara receives an annual rainfall of about 570 millimetres. In the village's limited cultivable land, vines (of wine-making varieties), olive, almond, and carob trees, a few citrus-trees, forage plants, broad beans, a few fruit-trees (fig, pomegranate, and plum trees), and very few vegetables are cultivated. However, the village's greatest part is uncultivated and wild, natural vegetation grows in it, mainly pine-trees, thorny burnets and brooms, sages (cistus), thyme, and wild carob and olive trees.

As far as transportation is concerned, Kato Lefkara is connected to the neighbouring village of Pano (Upper) Lefkara in the north-west (about 1 km), with the village Kato Drys in the south-west (about 4 km.), and with the Skarinou Station in the south-east via the Nicosia - Limassol Highway (about 8 km).

The village has gone through several fluctuations of its population. In 1881 the inhabitants were 313, increasing to 334 in 1891 and to 349 in 1901, decreasing to 323 in 1911, increasing to 364 in 1921, again decreasing to 357 in 1931 but increasing to 405 in 1946. In 1960 the inhabitants numbered 304, decreasing to 225 in 1973, increasing to 256 in 1976, however decreasing to 210 in 1982. In the last census of 2001 the village's inhabitants were 118.

The art of needlework (embroidery) developed in Kato Lefkara, as also in the neighbouring village of Pano Lefkara, reaching to very high levels. A large variety of "lefkaritika" embroideries is manufactured, which are characterised by the affluence and the diversity of their designs.

The separation into Upper (Pano) and Lower (Kato) Lefkara was observed since the times of the Turkish domination, thus the latter village must have been established by banished Greeks. In earlier sources Lefkara is mentioned as a single settlement, obviously being Pano Lefkara.

The village was a strong and rich feud during the years of Frank domination and de Mas Latri includes it in the list of royal estates. Besides, in older maps the village is marked as Lefcara and / or Lescara.

However, Lefkara is one of Cyprus's villages that we know for sure it existed before the Frank domination era -during the Byzantine times -for which there are no sources that are adequately detailed. The village was claiming the honour of being considered as the birthplace of the significant Cypriot Saint Neofytos, who is however reported as being born in the neighbouring village of Kato Drys. It seems that local tradition attempted to compromise this dispute, regarding the Saint's decent, by relating that his parents came from "Apliki" -a settlement that existed between Lefkara and Kato Drys -moving however to Kato Drys (where the Saint was born in the 12th century) and later also residing in Lefkara.

The mediaeval annalist Leontios Machairas accepts the descent of Saint Neofytos from Lefkara. In any event, in one of his own writings, Saint Neofytos himself mentions Lefkara as the place of his origin.
    
There are three different interpretations regarding the name "Lefkara": the first supports that it comes from the words "Lefka Ori" (White Mountains), because the region has the white coloured, rough, limestone and fire-stone landscape as its main characteristic. The same natural, white colour of the region's rocks also characterises the appearance of all the stone-made houses, the paved alleys, and the dry-stone, protective structures in the fields, which were made with the local stone of the "White Mountains". The second interpretation supports that the villages received this name due to the tufts of small, white poplars that grew in their region. Finally, there is the opinion that perhaps the name came from some settler who was named Lefkalos.

Pano and Kato Lefkara, two entirely separate and independent villages, though with a common and interrelated existence, occupy a privileged position on the west, mountainous region of the Larnaca district. Built -side by side -on the edges and the foot of the Sotira mountain, the two villages are adjacent to the Neolithic settlement of Choirokitia and the monastery of Saint Minas.

The first written testimony for the existence of Lefkara under today's name is given by Saint Neofytos in his book "Typiki Diathiki", in which he mentions that he was born in Lefkara in 1134. The Saint's descent from Lefkara is confirmed by his relevant chant, which characterises him as the Glory of Lefkara. This watertight, chronological testimony reveals the existence of Lefkara -as a community -in 1134, which is placed in the end of the Byzantine era (395-1191). Undoubtedly, Lefkara continued their historic tradition and their cultural progress -as the same communal entity -throughout the duration of the Byzantine era.

The second historical testimony goes back to the times of the Frank domination (1191-1570) and reports that all the leading members of the military Order of the Templars were exiled in Lefkara in 1308 and for three years; their inadmissible behaviour obstructed the smooth operation of the Frank regime in Cyprus. In any event, it is reported that -during the 15th century -Sor de Naves, Constable of Cyprus, served as Lord of Lefkara.

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