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THE CASTLE OF LIMASSOL

The Castle of Limassol as it appears today is a structure rebuilt under the Turkish domination (19th century). The architectural features of a much more extended Medieval Museum have been included.

The oldest report on the existence of the Castle of Limassol dates back to 1228 when Frederick the Second of Germany and his supporters sent to prison the hostages seized by Ibeline, the king regent of Cyprus. This Castle was likely to be an ancient Byzantine Castle or the one that took its place over the early Frankish period. According to Stephen Lusignan, Guy de Lusignan had the original Castle built in 1193. This original fort, if it really existed, has not yet been localized by the archaeologists. It is more likely to have been given up to the knights for administration purposes on behalf of the crown in 1308.

In the corridor that links the big hall to the eastern grounds, B the basement was discovered in a log done before 1951. A marble podium of a small basilica dating back to the Early Christian times and the floor of a Middle Byzantine monument (10th – 11thcentury) were also discovered there C.

The eastern side of an arched basement composed of three parts has a big apse on the floor with an approximately 12-metre diameter which could be considered part of the first Latin cathedral of the town. The questions concerning the extent and the precise time when the monument had been erected will never be answered unless some excavations take place in the South and North side of the Castle. The winding staircase in the southwest corner was likely to be part of this chapel leading to its roof D.

The more recent division in three parts of the apse of this aisle with the arched roof could at least originally be considered a worship place too E.

In 1373 the Genoeses burned the town after having conquered the castle. At this attack serious damage must have been caused to the monument. According to the tourists the town had almost no inhabitants at the late 14th century. A small recovery was observed over the latest decade and the early 15th century at the Latin Bishop's See of Limassol which apparently used a rebuilt old Middle Byzantine Temple, Zik-Zak street behind the today's Kepir Mosque, while at the same time the Castle was being repaired. It is often featured that it was a place of resistance against the Genoeses in 1402 and 1408. In 1413 the resistance against the attacks of the Mamluks, who were eventually not able to conquer it, was a fact indeed.

Serious damage caused then and maybe a little later, owing to the earthquakes, which were not dealt with efficiently, made it easy to be conquered in 1425 by the Egyptians during their second raid conducted on the town.

According to some information a stronger earthquake affected seriously the monument. When in 1518 Saige visited the town, the Castle was still maintained in a strong position. The most probable is what happened in the case of the Zik-Zak street temple during this period; repairs to a great extent and reconstruction works took place. The gothic arcs that can be observed in the ground western hall belong therefore to this reconstruction phase F. Also some openings with arch hewed doorframes are likely to be seen at the sidewalks of the first floor and above the today's entrance G.

 In 1538 the Turks landed at Limassol and conquered the Castle. Bragadino, the Venetian Governor of Cyprus decided to have the Castle demolished in order to prevent any further use of it or its being conquered by the Turks to be used as a fort.

Boustronios blamed the Governor for this act of his, stating that the expenses for the demolition of the castle went beyond the costs for having it repaired .The demolition works took place through several phases and their completion was achieved owing to the earthquakes occurred in 1567/8.

Following the complete conquest of the island (1576) by the Ottomans, the ruins of the old castle or parts of it were incorporated into the new fort built by the Ottomans in 1590. A 2-metre thick wall and the specially tailored ground floor cells used as a prison until 1950, have been two particularly important features of it.

THE CYPRUS MEDIEVAL MUSEUM

When the Cyprus central prison cells were transferred to Nicosia, the Castle of Limassol was declared an archaeological site and a cultural monument. It was therefore given to the Department of Antiquities to be used as a Regional Archaeological Museum where only one technician was initially employed. It remained closed after the 1963 conflicts until 1974 when the National Guard used it as an outpost.

When the new Limassol Regional Museum was entirely restored and the exhibits were transferred to the new building, some cleaning and maintenance works took place at the Castle for a number of years. Its design was transformed both inside and outside in view of its hosting the new Museum known as the Cyprus Medieval Museum which was inaugurated on 28 march 1987.

There are exhibits, which reflect the historical evolution of modern Cyprus, its economic, social and cultural development, the customs and traditions of the island from the 3rd to the 18th century AD This lapse of time may be split into four main periods.

Chronological table:

Early Christian Era 
(Late Roman or Early Byzantine)
324-650 A.D.
Middle Byzantine Era

Dark Age / the Arab raids period or
A' Middle Byzantine period
B' Middle Byzantine period

650-1192 A.D.


650-965 A.D.
965-1191 A.D.

MIDDLE AGE

Frankish period
Venetian period

1192-1570
1192-1489 A.D.
1489-1570 A.D.

OTTOMAN PERIOD 1570-1878 A.D

 

CYPRUS IN EARLY CHRISTIAN TIMES

During the period between the 3rd / 4th and 7th century AD, known as Late Roman period, Early Christian times or Early Byzantine times, drastic changes in the structure of the ancient cities came up; changes occurred in their social system too under the new Eastern Roman Empire. At that time Constantine the Great was involved in a new political and cultural course. Although relying upon the administrative structures of the Roman State and the Hellenistic cultural framework, this was reflecting a new revolutionary glamour expressing the reforming concepts of Christianity emanated from each aspect of the political, economic and social life.

Man experienced inside him the presence of the Son of God who was incarnated and risen, sealing therefore the history of mankind. It is a fact translated in the personal life of each one and in society too.

The most important work which dates back to the Early Christian times in Cyprus is located in the burial niche, in the temple of Saint Rheginus at Phasouleia, a village at the northern region of Limassol. It is a part from the embossed sarcophagus with scenes from hunting, which is exposed on the northern wall of the corridor on the first floor. It is also governed by the artist spirit of the Roman art and dates back to the 3rd century AD

Later on, after the establishment of religious freedom (edict of Milan issued in 313 AD), in place of the big stones and solid iron, the much-venerated signs of Christ on the mosaic inscription from the house of Eustolios at Kourion, testify each work of the Early Christian times art. About 100 monumental Early Christian times basilicas have been located or investigated on the island. On the sidewall of the corridor on the 1st floor northwards, a graphical representation of a part of this inside arrangement of one of the most important basilicas on the island, the five-isled Episcopal basilica at Kourion (5th - late 7th century AD / early 8th century AD 1b), can be seen. Some of the most important photos are also exposed in the underground western chamber (e.g. Kourion Basilica, Holy Trinity in Karpass, Kampanopetra in Salamis, Solon Basilica and Ayios Yeoryios at Peyia).

A copy of the more ancient wall paintings is exposed in the ground chamber on a watercolour with Nilotic scenery. It is taken from the holy water of Saint Nicodamus in Salamis, which is today an occupied land and constitutes one of the very early examples of Christian art in Cyprus of the Roman period.

A specific architectural style of a closed propped up chamber during the Roman period is described by the term Basilica. It derives from the style of the said "Stoa Basileios" in Classical Athens. The architects of New Rome have chosen this Roman architectural style of Basilica during the Early Christian times, as the most convenient one to have the new monumental church buildings constructed everywhere on the empire's territory.

Prokonnesian marbles were imported from the quarries at Bosporus. They were carved by technicians in Constantinople and sent everywhere in Cyprus for the construction of these Basilicas within the framework of the empire's policy.

In the corridor of the 1st floor, exhibits of this art are exposed such as: a piece of column with a cross in relief from the Episcopal Basilica of Amathus, a marble capital of the 6thcentury from the small extra-mural basilica at Kourion near the Stadium, a small capital of a Holy Table altar grave of unknown origin, some of the usual types of capitals amongst the small columns of the turrets, a table for offerings from Akrotiri in Limassol dated back to the 6th century AD, normal marble coatings, wall marble plane bedding revetment 4-5 from Ayios Filonas Basilica in Karpass, marble turrets from unknown origin and limestone from Ayios Epiphanios Basilica in Salamis, Vatyli and Marathovouno 6 below, a window calcareous septal line from Ayia Kebir etc.

The icon painted normal marble plane bedding coating with Prophet Daniel in the Lion's Den of the late 5th century AD, with striking features linking it with the neighbouring Seleucia art in Syria (6 middle), is a quite typical one.

In the eastern showcase in the middle of the corridor, clay lamps are exposed mainly from Salamis, Chrysopolitissa – Kato Paphos as well as exhibits and ampullae brought by worshippers from Ayios Minas Monastery at Maryut in Egypt 8th – 10th centuries AD.

In the yard of the Castle, rightwards, parts of the very important mosaic floors of the Basilica of Ayia Mavri in Alassa have been placed. They date back to the Late Roman Age. In the southeastern corner, there is an oil-mill from Dameftis region at Kourris River dating back to the 7th – 9thcentury AD.

CYPRUS IN THE MIDDLE BYZANTINE PERIOD

The second period, which covers the lapse of time between the second half of the 7th and almost the whole of the 10th century, is known as the period of the Arab raids or the Dark Age.

Despite the fact that the island was forced through several treaties to remain neutral according to a status fixed to neutrality / condominium, regarding the relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs, it remained loyal to the reign of Constantinople. This is the reason why according to Patriarch Nicolaos Mystikos, the island was relentlessly attacked. The Patriarch himself was tortured to death because he never abandoned his faith to Jesus Christ and the established by God Byzantine Empire.

Coping with the thriving Islam in the mi-7th century in the Far East marked the beginning of a new painful experience leading to the disappearance of the ancient cities. However, this marked the beginning of a new era too. The overwhelming but also triumphant Church of Cyprus became then the most essential and permanent representative of the people of Cyprus. This role was translated into a political power, which was obvious until the days under the leadership of Arch. Makarios C (1977).

The people of Cyprus were violently cut from the rest of the pagan past through dramatic processes, as if a pruning-knife was used. The structures of what we call today Byzantine civilization came up.

Since that period few art exhibits have been rescued like e.g. pottery with inscriptions in Arabic, which are exposed in the southeastern corner chamber on the 1st floor 7.

Clasps from the uniforms of the Byzantine soldiers who were serving the island (bronze clasp with a carved tie like a drop), 7th century AD 8 showed that Byzantium did not sell out its sovereignty over the island either, despite the difficulty to defend the island against the Arab raids. Justinian II, who was Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in late 7th century, decided to remove a great number of Cypriots to Kyzikus (Nea Artaki). Despite the fact of their being removed, their sovereign privileges granted to them by the Byzantine emperor were preserved. The Archbishop of Cyprus was also given relevant powers while residing in that land known as Nova Justiniana.

Ever since, the archbishop's title has been modified into Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and all Cyprus.

This removal was never consolidated. The Cypriots were brought back home in the late 17thcentury and experienced again further awful persecutions during the next three centuries until 965, when the emperor Nicephorus Phocas liberated definitely the island and attacked determiningly the Arab troops in the East Mediterranean.

The survived inhabitants who abandoned the buried cities were sheltered in caves in the mountains and, later, were likely to live in small rural settlements.

In the southeastern chamber of the 1st floor 7 items of ceramics dating back to the Late Roman period and the Dark Age (6th - 8thcentury AD) are exposed.

These items of ceramics come especially from the well-known workshop of Diorius in the occupied Morphou.

The red polished pottery vessels (LR D) from Salamis and the cave of Kornos dating back to the late 7thand 8th century AD are typical examples of the ceramic repertoire of Cyprus.

A new rural economy was born in Cyprus inland with Byzantine colours. Strong political and cultural links existed between this new civilization and Constantinople itself. It appeared in all the forms of art: metalwork, ceramics, architecture and iconography as it is stressed in a typical example of work on watercolour, representing the burial of Dead Christ. It has been taken from the chapel of Soteros, at Saint John Chrysostom Monastery – Koutsoventi and dates back to 1110 – 1118 AD. It is linked with the Dirge 9 and is exposed in one of the basement cells.

This select composition is the precursory stem before the establishment of a new iconography form of Byzantine art, having as the main representative example of it the relevant presentation of the Dirge from Ayios Panteleimonas Church at Nerezi in Yugoslavia.

Many of the architectural monuments of this era, Byzantine castles and fortresses, ecclesiastical monuments are exposed through photos at the entrance and on the north wall of the underground western chamber 10-11.

The abandoning of the basilicas of the Early Christian times is a characteristic movement during the Middle Byzantine period. Aisled vaulted temples replaced them. Domes spanning the side-aisles formed therefore a cross and more rarely a five-domed construction like Ayia Paraskevi at Yeroskipos – Paphos and Ayion Barnaba and Ilarion Church at Peristerona. The serried style of three groin-vaulted temples with three domes like Ayios Lazaros in Larnaca is unique. It was constructed at approximately the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 10th century.

During the 2nd Middle Byzantine phase, the temples with steep-pitched wooden roofs 12 appeared in Troodos mountain chain. They first had a single roof, the early 11th (Ayios Nikolaos tis Steyis) and 12th century (Panayia Asinou, Amasgou, Laghoudera). Since the 13th century (Panayia tou Moutoulla) they were transformed according to the known style with the protective wooden roof, which was widely used, especially during the 16th century AD (see photo exhibition in the large underground west chamber). Most of these temples have select wall paintings and frescoes.

One of the best examples of woodcarving and battens from the wooden roof of Ayios Mamas – Louvaras church (1463) is located above the central corridor of the 1st floor.

MIDDLE AGE

FRANKISH PERIOD – VENETIAN PERIOD

A new period rises in 1191 for the island, with the appearance of consecutive conquerors or pirates. Richard the Lionheart, the English crusader, conquered the island and a year later he sold it to the Frank king of Jerusalem Guy de Luzignan.

Since then, West Europeans, the Franks, until 1489 and the Venetians until 1570 administered the island for four centuries. The Venetians settled initially as conquerors, then very soon as masters. However, many of them were integrated in the local population and they were gradually cut from the national centres of their origin countries being identified to the destiny of the Greek population of Cyprus.

The architectural monuments (castles, churches, monasteries) with their relevant decoration elements like for instance the sculptured moulds, which were decorating the arcade lintel over the central west entrance in the 14th century Cathedral of Ayia Sofia in Nicosia, are a typical representative work of the west art developed during that period in Cyprus. Such moulds are exposed in the big western underground chamber 13. On the north wall of this chamber, there is a photo exhibition through which monuments of both periods are presented. In the centre, a showcase has also been placed, in which some findings from the medieval treasury, which was discovered Pindarou and Androkleous Street in Nicosia, have been placed. They date back to the early 13th century until the middle 14th century AD.

In the underground eastwards and on the ground floor, an important collection of gravestones is exposed. The exhibits date back mainly to the 13th and 14th century and have an engraved or a decoration in relief, inscribed or not, through which the presence of the Frankish gentry in Cyrpus is described 14-16. The items exhibited through this collection come from the surrounding area of the churches in Nicosia (most part of it from St. Augustin – order of the Augustinians -, which was later transformed, into the well-known Omeriyeh mosque). They also come from some other churches in the region of Limassol (Monastery of Franciscans, which used to be where the Episcopal Church of Panayia Pantanassa is today).

Copies of the gentle families' blazons are exposed in the corridor on the ground floor. The presence of these families is testified mainly through the gravestones 17-18.

The collection of medieval ceramics is of particular importance and is exposed in the cells of the first floor 19-22. The technique of monochrome following some influence from the Far East is imported to Cyprus. This technique consisted in promoting the art of glazing in various colours regarding the decoration of pottery.

In Cyprus two important workshops can be discerned, where glazed work used to turn out : the one in Paphos and the other in Lapethos, that had been functioning from the 12th to the16th / 17th century and some smaller workshops at Engomi in Famagusta.

Glazed pottery with a decoration in sgraffito was initially produced in the 12th and 13th century. Later during the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th century an art of glazing monochrome at first, in various colours onwards, simple or with engraved decorative motives or in relief was perfected.

The rich decoration and the variety of their topics have made of them an important element of the medieval art in Cyprus. They are used like vessels for decoration or ceremony purposes, during important events of the everyday and religious life. Such glazed jugs in which the rice was put almost always accompany the burials during the medieval period. It was necessary for celebrating the funeral service.

Together with the glazed pottery, exhibits of handy ceramics are exposed in one of the cells 22, as an example of the sugar preparation process (straining pottery). Sugar used to be the most important trading product in Cyprus of the Middle Age and particularly in the area of the today's region of Limassol.

In Kolossi and Episkopi – region of Limassol – where the workshops for the preparation process of sugar have been located, there used to be the most important sugarcane plantations, which according to visitors were producing such quantities that were enough to satisfy the needs of the whole world at that time. A similar workshop was functioning in the medieval villa at Kouklia.

Finally that period is represented in the Medieval Museum through a relevant quantity of miniature art ware like glassworks, isinglass, metalworking : vessels, tools, sacred utensils and ornamentation; also worship or everyday's use items which reflect the customs and tradition of that period.

In the middle of the corridor on the 1st floor, exhibits illustrating the succession of the political rulers, from the Byzantine emperor Anastasio until the leaders from the dynasty of Comnenus, the Franks and the Venetians and the latest Ottoman Sultans, are exposed in a showcase containing coins found in Cyprus.

 

OTTOMAN PERIOD

In 1570 the Turks conquered Cyprus. The island's conquest was the result of a number of heroically sustained fights conducted by the Venetians and the Cypriots.

On Tripoli's' bastion and on the walls of Nicosia, the arms of the last defenders of the walls in the 16th century were found and are part of the exhibits (24 suits of armour and 25 helmets. Some of the Turks' arms are also exhibited [pistols, 26 swords, 27 cannons e.t.a.].

Finally, in the extreme northern cell on the first floor, 28-29 typical Alexandrian and Cypriot bronze pots are exhibited. They belong to this late age, which is represented partly through the exhibits at the Cyprus Medieval Museum.

Exhibits of the 19th and the early 20th century may usually be found at the Folk Art Museums (e.g. Limassol Folk Art Museum, the Department of Antiquities Folk Art Museum at Yeroskipos).

 

 

 

 

 
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