Choulou is a village located in the center of Paphos district and east of Ezousa river, where the valley has created a forestry atmosphere.
The name of the village seems to be associated with the name of the founder and first settler of the area. According to tradition, during the period of the Frankish rule on the island, the feudal lord who was appointed responsible for the administration of the region, was named “Goul” and was of Syrian origin. Another version relates the name Choulou with a title that officials were bearing at the era - “Julio” (pronounced as “houlio” [‘χuljo]).
The village has a significant historic past. Choulou was under Frankish rule since the 13th century, while the King’s palace was in the courtyard of today’s church. Then on and during the Ottoman’s conquest of the island, Choulou has become a mixed settlement, with both Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots permanently settling at the village. After the intercommunal riots of 1963, the Turkish-Cypriot population was forced to abandon the village and therefore, few permanent residents have remained, even until today.
Nowadays, Choulou rests a small village, preserving its traditional mountainous character. Architecturally, it is characterised by narrow streets, which are passing along the stone-built houses, with their courtyards and arches, that are still maintaining the wooden windows and typical doors, and their tiled roofs. Important places of interests are the two stone-built ancient bridges, the old watermill that is located about a kilometre outside the village and next to Ezousa River, along with the watermill’s arch, and the village’s fountains, such as Kato Vrysi.
The main church of the village is located in the southwestern part of Choulou and it is dedicated to Panagia Pantanassa (translated as “Virgin Mary Most-Holy Queen of All”). The church was built on the 13th century and initially was part of the private feudal estate. At the entrance of the village is situated the byzantine chapel of Saint George, built during the 12th century. On the hill overlooking the village, it is the Holy Cross chapel (Timios Stavros), constructed in 1970. During the Frankish domination, at the same location it was located the military watch tower. A remnant and highlight of the Turkish-Cypriot population that resided in Choulou, is the mosque with a minaret. The current mosque was built in 1962. Before the Ottoman occupation of the island (16th century), the site was a Latin church dedicated to Saint George, constructed by the Latin population residing in the region.
Choulou consists also part of the wine-producing villages of Cyprus (Krasochoria). It is included in the wine route “Vouni Panagias-Ampelitis”, a mountainous area, situated east of Paphos city, nestled in the forest and surrounded by vineyards. At the region, they are cultivated more than 20 grape varieties, with Carignan Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon being the most distinguished ones.
The village is well-known through folk tradition and more precisely it is linked to one of the oldest songs of Cyprus, “Arodafnousa”. Having its origins in the medieval period, this song has survived over the centuries in different versions. The protagonists of this medieval song are a beautiful girl, Arodafnousa from Choulou village, the King (“ο Ρήγας”) and the Queen (“η Ρήγαινα”). According to the song’s plot, the King is astonished by Arodafnousa’s beauty and falls in love with her. When the Queen becomes aware of her husband’s secret liaison, she asked her servants to bring the young woman to the palace, where she tortures her, until the young lady is killed. The ending of the story has several variations; one of them suggests that Arodafnousa during the torturing, cried out so loud that her lover heard her. The King then travelled a thousand miles on horseback and arrived at the castle, where he discovered his mistress dead body.
Behind the folk song of Arodafnousa are according to scholars real historical figures, and it is associated with an event mentioned by Leontios Machairas in his chronicles. Specifically, behind Arodafnousa is believed to be Joanna d’Aleman, wife of Jean de Montolif, who was the feudal lord of Choulou during the period of Frankish rule on the island and the reign of King Peter I. Joanna d’Aleman, after the death of her husband, is said to have been a mistress of King Peter I. When the King was away, Queen Eleanor of Aragon, his wife, invites Joanna to the palace, who at the time was pregnant with the king’s child, and subjected her to terrific torture, eventually imprisoning her in the castle of Kyrenia. When the King was informed of the event, he asked his wife to release Joanna immediately, who then finds refuge in a monastery.
From its long history and fairy tales to the monuments and the vineyards, Choulou is a charming village brimming with traditional character and beauty at every corner. Occupying a spot on the steep hills of Paphos district, it leaves a lasting impression.