The Venetian Period in Cyprus 


The defence of the island was of pressing importance, because the invention of gunpowder in the fourteenth century had rendered obsolete all the castles of the Lusignans. Against the new artillery the mediaeval walls of masonry were useless. Fortification had to be made of thick ramparts of earth, not only to withstand the fire of the attack but also to provide a wide platform for the cannon of the defenders, from which they could sweep with fire the ditch and the sloping glacis beyond it. The Venetians, therefore, had to rebuild the fortresses that they decided to retain. The remainder, including the Castles of St. Hilarion, Buffavento, and Kantara, were dismantled and partially destroyed. The object of this destruction was to render useless any place which might otherwise serve as a stronghold in any possible rising of the population against their alien rulers. 

As the defence of the island was to provide a secure base for naval action and for maritime trade, the first object of the Venetians was the fortification of Famagusta, which was undertaken by the two earliest governors, Nicolo Foscarini and Nicolo Priuli. The mediaeval fortifications of Famagusta consisted of the sea-castle, built at the beginning of the Lusignan period, and the wall round the town built by King Henri II after the fall of Acre. The Venetians cut a ditch, hewn out of the solid rock, and replaced the mediaeval wall on the west and south of the city by an earth rampart faced with masonry, flanked by round towers at intervals. At the south-west corner was built the great ravelin, or bastion to protect the main entrance, and at the south-east corner, where the wall meets the sea, the tower of the arsenal. 

At Kyrenia castle, the Venetians built a massive wall some 20 feet outside the existing mediaeval wall and filled up the space between the two walls with earth to form an artillery platform. This was done on the west, south and the east sides of the castle, the northern front facing the sea being left unaltered, as it was not exposed to artillery attack. In this reconstruction the inner harbour was abolished and converted into a dry ditch. The old mediaeval castle of Jean d’Ibelin was thus encased, except on the north side, by the Venetian ramparts, which remain to this day. 

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

Chronological History