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Military Orders in Cyprus
in the Light of Recent Scholarship
Peter W. Edbury (Cardiff
University, Wales, United Kingdom)
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.
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.
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.
for Cyprus and the Military Orders
Barber, The Trial of The Templars (Cambridge
University Press, 1978).
Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the
Temple (Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Barber (ed.), The Military Orders. Fighting for the Faith
and Caring for the Sick (Aldershot: Variorum, 1994)
- 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
- Anne Gilmour-Bryson,
'Testimony of non-Templar witnesses in Cyprus', 205-211.
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.
Coureas, The Latin Church in Cyprus, 1195-1312 (Aldershot:
- Anne Gilmour-Bryson,
The Trial of the Templars in Cyprus. A complete English
edition (Leiden: Brill, 1998).
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)
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.
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.
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),
For a modern
general history of the first two centuries of Lusignan Cyprus
with a bibliography of earlier work:
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.
(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)