The Venetian Period in Cyprus 

Fortification of Cyprus

The Venetians, therefore, sent to Cyprus, about the year 1550, the famous military engineer Giovanni Girolamo Sammichele, to complete the fortifications of Famagusta according to the latest theories of defence. Sammichele built the great rampart along the sea from the arsenal to the sea castle, entirely surrounding the latter with the new wall. The rampart was thence extended along the northern side of the city to the great Martinengo bastion at the north-west corner. 

The Martinengo bastion, the crowning feature of Sammichele's work, is one of the finest existing specimens of military architecture of the sixteenth century. Planted on a rocky eminence, the guns upon it could weep not only the rock-hewn ditch on both sides but also the rocky slopes down to the sea and far inland. It was so strong that the Turks never attempted to attack it when they besieged the city in 1571. Sammichele died at Famagusta in 1559 before his work was completed. 

About ten years later, another famous Venetian engineer Guilio Savorgnano, was sent to Cyprus to advise on the defences of Nicosia. He reported that the mediaeval walls built by King Pierre II were useless against artillery, and was then commissioned to fortify the city according to the latest ideas. Savorgnano, with the help of the provveditore, Francesco Barbaro, designed the immense earthworks and ditch, about three miles in circuit, with eleven bastions faced with masonry, the remains of which may still be seen. 

The mediaeval wall and ditch, being outside the new ramparts, had to be levelled so as not to afford shelter to the attack. But, Savorgnano did not remain to complete his designs. He was recalled to Venice to meet a more pressing danger, and left the work to be completed by the new and incompetent provveditore, Nicholas Dandolo. 

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

Chronological History