The Rule of Hugues II
Again the crown of Cyprus fell to a minor and the question of Hugues I of Cyprus and therefore first cousin of the young king Hugues II. Being the nearest relative of the king, he was heir presumptive to the crown and eventually came to the throne as Hugues III.

During the minority of Hugues II the long struggle between the Orthodox and Latin churches in Cyprus came to a head. The leaders on either side were Hugo di Fagiano, the Latin archbishop of Cyprus, and Germanos, the Orthodox archbishop, who was throughout supported by the regent and the barons of Cyprus. Hugo di Fagiano was of peasant by birth from the village of Fagiano near Pisa, but on account of his intelligence as a boy was sent to be educated at the university of Bologna. He came to the East in the train of St. Louis of France in the Seventh Crusade, but remained in Cyprus and became an Augustine canon at the monastery of Bella Paise. Although desirous of a monastic life, his learning and piety caused the Chapter of Nicosia to elect him to the vacant archbishopric in 1251. His policy of extending the authority of Roman church led him to order, under pain of excommunication, all Orthodox clergy and laity to give him obedience.

This action was not consistent with the conciliatory attitude of Pope, Innocent IV, who had given permission to the Orthodox church to elect their own archbishop. During the temporary absence of Hugo from the island the Orthodox bishops elected Germanos Pesimandros to be their Primate, with the consent of Eudes, the papal legate. Germanos on his consecration promised obedience to the Pope, but not to the Latin archbishop of Nicosia. Hugo regarded the existence of an Orthodox archbishop as a personal affront and a fatal to the supremacy of his communion. He therefore withdrew to Tuscany, where he remained until the death of King Henri I in 1253, placing the kingdom of Cyprus meanwhile under an interdict. The death of Pope Innocent IV in 1254 brought to an end his policy of conciliation, and Hugo, who had now returned to Cyprus, appealed to new Pope, Alexander IV, to cancel the appointment of Germanos as archbishop on the grounds that the election was invalid and that it was impossible to have two archbishops in Cyprus.

Bulla Cypria
After much delay the Pope gave his decision by the promulgation of the Bulla Cypria in 1260, by which the position of the Orthodox church in Cyprus was defined. The Orthodox sees were to be limited to four, comprising the same areas as those of the four Latin sees. The Orthodox bishops were to reside in the four villages laid down by the Famagusta convention, namely, Soli for the diocese of Nicosia, Arsinoe for the diocese of Paphos, Lefkara for the diocese of Limassol, and Carpasia for the diocese of Famagusta. Both Latin and Orthodox bishops were to be under the supervision of the Latin archbishop, who was to be the sole metropolitan of the island. In the event of a vacancy in an Orthodox see, a new bishop might be elected and consecrated by the other Orthodox bishops after the Latin bishop of the see had approved of the candidate. The new bishop on the consecration was to give an oath of obedience to the Latin archbishop of Nicosia.

The Bulla Cypria also contained regulations regarding the dismissal or resignation of Orthodox bishops, the custody of property in a vacant see, the powers of ecclesiastical courts, the attendance of all bishops at the annual diocesan synods, and the contributions to be paid to the Latin bishops at their visitations. Finally, it was laid down that all tithes were to be paid to the Latin clergy, whether from the Orthodox or from the Frank laity.

Although the bull deprived the Orthodox church of their metropolitan, an exception was made in favour of Germanos, who was allowed to retain his title and rank during his lifetime with complete independence of the Latin archbishop. Thus, after a struggle lasting for sixty years the Orthodox church of Cyprus became subject to the church of Rome. Hugo di Fagiano, not content with the result and unable to live in Cyprus while Germanos remained there as archbishop, resigned his see and returned to the monastery he had founded near Pisa in his native Tuscany, where he passed the remainder of his life.

Fall of the Latin Empire of Constantinople
The Latin Empire established at Constantinople as a result of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 was a feudal state. The emperor was suzerain of all the princes among whom the territory of the Eastern Roman Empire had been divided. But this empire was hampered by dependence on fleets of Venice and by lack of financial resources. The feudal princes, occupied with their separate interests, gave little support to the empire, which began rapidly to decline in spite of the efforts of the Popes to save it.

The representative of the old imperial line of the Eastern Roman Empire, Theodore Lascaris, had collected at Nicaea, the remnants of the Byzantine aristocracy, by whom he was elected emperor in 1206. He and his successors advanced gradually against the Latin empire, until in 1261 Constantinople was recaptured by the able diplomat and general, Michael Palaeologus. Baldwin, the Latin emperor, fled to the Pope, who preached a crusade for the recovery of Constantinople by the Latins. 

To repel this attack, Michael Palaeologus restored the fortifications of Constantinople and endeavoured to appease the Pope by persuading the Orthodox clergy to submit to Rome. A temporary union of the two communions, prompted by political motives, only aroused the disgust of his subjects, and at length the Pope excommunicated the emperor from the church into which he was trying to seduce his people. 

The projected attack on Constantinople by the Western Powers led by Charles of Anjou, king of Sicily, was delayed temporarily by the Eighth Crusade of St. Louis against Tunis in 1270, but finally the preparations were complete and vast expedition assembled at Brindisi for the conquest of Constantinople. But, the expedition never sailed. On the vigil of Easter 1282 the Sicilians rose in revolt, 8,000 Franks were killed in the massacre known as the Sicilian Vespers, the ambition of Charles was checked by the rebellion of his kingdom, and Constantinople was saved from the attack by the Latins.

Meanwhile a second Salaaddin was rising in the East. The power in Egypt had been seized by the Mamelukes, a bodyguard of Turkish slaves from whom the officers of the army were drawn. Bibars, the greatest of the Mamelukes, had commanded at Gaza in 1244, had opposed St. Louis in 1250, and became sultan in 1260. In that year he captured Damascus, and once more, as in the days of Salaaddin, Damascus and Cairo were united under a Moslem leader determined to drive the Christians from Syria.

The power of the Franks in Palestine was rapidly falling. The princes were selling their estates and returning to the West. The Templars and Hospitallers were quarrelling; the Venetians and Genoese were at war. In 1264 Bibars destroyed Caesarea and laid siege to Acre. In 1265 Hugues of Antioch, the regent of Cyprus led to the defence of Acre a Cypriot army, which though it fought valiantly, effected little to stem the rising tide. In 1267, the child king, Hugues II died, the last of the Lusignan in the male line, and the regent, who took the name of Lusignan from his mother, succeeded to the throne as Hugues III.

  • From: Newman, P., (1940), "A Short History of Cyprus", Longmans, Green & Co., London.

Chronological History