Agios Athanasios is located 3km north-east of Limassol, built in a small valley with hills, in an open sea-view location of Limassol which extends to the sea side. It was named after Saint Athanasios, the patron saint of the community.
Based on archeological findings in the area, the origins of its inhabitants trace back to the late Bronze Age. What started out to be a small rural community between the early and mid-21st century, it later turned into a small village with a population of 400 inhabitants. The population of the Municipality has been more than doubled after the Turkish invasion of 1974, with the establishment of two refugee settlements in the area, hosting about 6000 refugees, most of whom were the families of missing persons. Thus, Agios Athanasios rightfully came to be considered as “The refugee capital”.
During the same year, the community has been upgraded to an Improvement Board and pursuant to a referendum, to a Municipality in May 1986. Agios Athanasios was, thus, making its first steps towards administrative autonomy.
Agios Athanasios is a compound area, where the ancient and contemporary elements blend, where the urban and rural elements are combined, where the industrial and educational elements meet. It is a small developing town, which beautifully combines the advantages of an old traditional village and the comforts of a modern town. The core of the old village remains alive, co-existing with the new neighborhoods. Hotels, tourist apartments, tourist and other businesses, services and shops are located in the southeast coastal side of the town. Within the boundaries of the Municipality there is an Industrial Estate mainly for light industry and manufacturing.
Fifty years ago, it was a small rural community with a poor agricultural productivity and the largest part of its soil was infertile and rocky; only a few families had enough income. That is why most young people followed the road of “living abroad” in search of a better ≪life chances≫ as Weber would argue. The residents were mostly preoccupied with agriculture and livestock farming, cultivated cereals and had a lot of locust trees. The area was offered for livestock farming and most residents in the area had goat and sheep herds. Many residents dealt with the extraction of plaster stone and the well-known matsaggana stone, which was used for building houses and churches. Another group of residents dealt with the construction of lime and in the area there used to be a great number of quarries and many lime kilms. Also, many residents were lumberjacks and supplied the town of Limassol with firewood. After the Turkish invasion, Agios Athanasios is undergoing an enormous constructural, industrial, tourist and economic development whilst today the population reaches approximately 15.000 residents. Agios Athanasios is today one of the most developing areas of Limassol where many people choose to live.
The existence of the Agios Athanasios and Kyrillos church back to the 17th century is evidence of the continuous presence of people in the area to this day whilst the presence of Panagia Sfalaggiotissa Monastery back to 1574, shows that the area was considered to be safe for worshipping.
Churches in Agios Athanasios:
The Holy Monastery of Panagia Sfalaggiotissa (1574), The church of Agios Athanasios and Kyrillos (1600). The Chruch of Saint Minas (1900), The church of Saint George Frangoudis (1990), The Church of Saint Kosmas Aitolos (2011), The Church of Saint Stylianos located in the refugee settlement in Linopetra (1993), The Church of Apostle Loucas, Saint Marina and Saint Thirsos in the refuge settlement of Agios Athanasios (2006), the Coptic Orthodox Church (2000).
The following are considered points of reference of the 30-year history of the municipality:
• The Town Hall constructed in 1995 in the periphery of the old traditional village core, which houses on the first floor the Municipal Theatre/ Cultural Events Hall for 450 people and serves the major city of Limassol. The whole building is a sample of modern infrastructure in the municipality.
• The Municipal Cultural Centre a traditional more than hundred years old stone-built building which used to be the primary school in the old days. This has been renovated and restored under the guidance of the Governmental Planning and Housing Department and it is currently hosting cultural events, civil marriages, exhibitions, conferences etc.).
• The upgrading of the central Square, the focus point of Agios Athanasios. It’s a project about upgrading the central area of Agios Athanasios Municipality, mainly the area adjacent to the Town Hall, executed in three phases. The main objectives of the project provided for the construction of a new road that would run along the east side of the Town Hall, and diverts the traffic to the side of the building, so that the area is a car free zone for people to enjoy since the creation of the square became possible and transformed a space into a place of recreation and relaxation, for entertainment, for social and cultural gatherings and outdoor activities. Some of the buildings facing the square were refurbished and housed a variety of uses like municipal library, cafeteria, kiosk, youth center, learning center for foreign languages, etc.
The project also included the design of sport activities area and numerous parking spaces, children’s playground whilst open spaces were landscaped in a way that protect, maintain and preserve the natural environment.
• The Municipal Folklore Museum – “Co-Op Bank (SPE) of Agios Athanasios Museum”. The mansion of the Sofroniou family in the core of the traditional village of Agios Athanasios has been restored in order to be converted on a second phase into the “Municipal Museum of Living History – SPE of Agios Athanasios Museum”. The project was fully funded by the Cooperative Savings Bank of Limassol.
The whole structure consists of several buildings with outstanding traditional features which have been restored to their former glory and became one of the most beautiful examples of traditional architecture.
In the southeastern side of the property, the building was used by Co-Op Bank (SPE) of Agios Athanasios, in its founding years of August 1929 until 1977. The owner of the property Georgios Sofroniou the mouktar of Agios Athanasios has also been the secretary of the Committee of SPE of Agios Athanasios for several years. This is why a specific part of the Museum will house the Museum of SPE of Agios Athanasios.
• Co-Op Bank (SPE) of Agios Athanasios
1929 has been a remarkable year for Agios Athanasios history since 12 visionary habitants took the historical decision of establishing the Co-Op Bank (SPE) of Agios Athanasios which contributed to the changing of the financial history as well as to promoting the enormous development of the community throughout the years.
It was in January the 9th, 2009 when SPE was eventually consolidated with the Cooperative Savings Bank of Limassol after an 80year of valuable and continuous contribution to Agios Athanasios community and its people.
SPE has been for decades the financial sponsor of the community in the older years and of the municipality in the years that followed. It kept on supporting on a systematic basis all charity, sportive and cultural events organized by sundry groups of the community.
During the 80 years of its historical existence, Co-Op Bank (SPE) of Agios Athanasios, has always been an example of a reliable bank institution, due to its continuous compliance with all financial rules, terms and regulations. Within the frame of the consolidation procedure with the Co-operative Savings Bank of Limassol, a reserve of €4,5 million was handed over to the new organization.
No doubt SPE of Agios Athanasios is part of the history of Agios Athanasios.
The present text is a modified version from the chapters of the Book “AGIOS ATHANASIOS In the years gone by… in the years to come…” edited by M.A. Sophocleous and Published by the Municipality of Agios Athanasios.