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Cyprus History

The Military Orders in Cyprus 
in the Light of Recent Scholarship

by Peter W. Edbury (Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom)

The French crusading Lusignan dynasty ruled in Cyprus from 1192 until 1474. After that the island was under Venetian rule, de facto from 1474 and de jure from 1489, until 1570-71. Until a few years ago it would have been true to say that medieval Cyprus had been rather neglected by scholars. Huge advances had been made in our understanding of the history of the other kingdom founded by the crusaders in the Levant, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem - we might think for example of the work of Joshua Prawer, Hans Mayer, Jean Richard, and Jonathan Riley-Smith - but interest in Cyprus was limited. This is no longer the case, and in this communication I shall draw attention to recent work on one specific topic: the History of the Military Orders in Cyprus. 

The upsurge in published materials since the early 1990s is striking. The recent book by Dr Nicholas Coureas of the Cyprus Research Centre, The Latin Church in Cyprus, 1195-1312, has a lengthy chapter on the Orders, and, at a conference on the Military Orders which was held in London in 1992 under the auspices of the London Centre for the Study of the Crusades, several contributors chose to talk about the island. A.H.S. (Peter) Megaw pointed out the striking similarities between the design of the concentric Hospitaller castle of Belvoir in Israel and the smaller and rather later (c. 1200) fortress at Paphos, although his suggestion that the Paphos fortress too may have belonged to the Order seems to me to be unlikely. By contrast, Alan Forey, Anne Gilmour-Bryson, the late Annetta Ilieva and myself all directed attention to the Templars. These papers and many others are edited by Malcolm Barber as The Military Orders. Fighting for the Faith and Caring for the Sick. Malcolm Barber's own study, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple makes appropriate reference to Cyprus, as does his older book, The Trial of The Templars. The Templars are of interest, partly because of their brief period of rule in the island in 1191-92, and partly because of the importance of the trial documents from Cyprus for our understanding of the Order's suppression. Recently Jean Richard has looked again at some of the issues surrounding the Templars' tenure of the island, and more recently still Anne Gilmour-Bryson has published the fruits of what must have been a most prodigious effort, a complete translation into English of the trial documents from 1310-11. 

In Cyprus the Templars were not tortured and did not confess; more remarkably, the lay witnesses, several of whom had no particular reason for supporting the Order, failed to incriminate them. With the suppression of the Templars and the transfer of most of their estates on Cyprus to the Hospitallers, the Knights of St John became the wealthiest ecclesiastical institution on the island and their Cypriot lands their richest commandery. Anthony Luttrell, whose name has long been synonymous with research into the history of the Hospitallers on Rhodes (1310-1522), has examined the effects of the papal schism of 1378 on the Order and its interests and personnel on the island. It is an unedifying tale of selfishness and intrigue.


A bibliography for Cyprus and the Military Orders

  • Malcolm Barber, The Trial of The Templars (Cambridge University Press, 1978).
  • Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge University Press, 1994).
  • Malcolm Barber (ed.), The Military Orders. Fighting for the Faith and Caring for the Sick (Aldershot: Variorum, 1994)
  • includes:
  • A.H.S. Megaw, 'A castle in Cyprus attributable to the Hospital?', 42-51.
  • Alan Forey, 'Towards a profile of the Templars in the early fourteenth century', 196-204.
  • Anne Gilmour-Bryson, 'Testimony of non-Templar witnesses in Cyprus', 205-211.
  • Annetta Ilieva, 'The suppression of the Templars in Cyprus according to the Chronicle of Leontios Makhairas', 212-19.
  • Peter Edbury, 'The Templars in Cyprus', 189-95.
  • Nicholas Coureas, The Latin Church in Cyprus, 1195-1312 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997)
  • Anne Gilmour-Bryson, The Trial of the Templars in Cyprus. A complete English edition (Leiden: Brill, 1998).
  • Anthony Luttrell, 'The Hospitallers in Cyprus after 1310' Kupriakai Spoudai, 50 (Nicosia, 1986), 155-84. (reprinted in The Hospitallers of Rhodes and their Mediterranean World, (Aldershot, Variorum Collected Studies, 1992)
  • Anthony Luttrell, 'Sugar and schism. The Hospitallers in Cyprus from 1378 to 1386', in 'The Sweet Land of Cyprus'. Papers given at the 25th jubilee spring symposium of Byzantine studies, edited by A.A.M. Bryer and G.S. Georghallides (Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre/Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, 1993), 157-66.
  • Anthony Luttrell, 'The Hospitallers in Cyprus after 1386', in Cyprus and the Crusades, ed. N. Coureas and J. Riley-Smith (Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre/Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East, 1995, 125-41.
  • Jean Richard, 'Les révoltes chypriotes de 1191-1192 et les inféodations de Guy de Lusignan', in Montjoie. Studies in crusade history in honour of Hans Eberhard Mayer, ed. B.Z. Kedar, J. Riley-Smith, R. Hiestand (Aldershot: Variorum, 1997), 123-8.

For a modern general history of the first two centuries of Lusignan Cyprus with a bibliography of earlier work:

Peter Edbury, The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191-1375 (Cambridge University Press, 1991)

I shall be publishing a review article on work on Cyprus since 1991 to appear in the Journal of Medieval History later this year.

The second (1996) conference held in London on the Military Orders has now been published, but although Cyprus was alluded to in several papers, none are devoted specifically to the island: Helen Nicholson (ed.), The Military Orders: Welfare and Warfare (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998)

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