Castle spotlight, Kyrenia Castle, Cyprus

Kyrenia castleKyrenia Castle in Northern Cyprus stands at the entrance to the harbor at Kyrenia North Cyprus. guarding this important and strategic North Cyprus port since the 1500s. There has been a settlement at Kyrenia since the 10th century BC, but the first major castle at Kyrenia was constructed by the Romans, and subsequently fortified by the Byzantines.  Excavations carried out show that the original castle was fortified by the Byzantines in the 7th century A.D. to protect against Arab raids.King Richard the Lionheart’s rule was not welcomed in Cyprus, so he sold the island to the Knights Templar, who in turn sold it to King-Consort Guy de Lusignan. Thus, Cyprus was under frankish rule for almost 300 years (1192-1489).The Byzantine structure of four towers linked by walls was strengthened and enlarged by the Lusignan family. The current appearance of Kyrenia Castle dates from when the Venetians were "given" the island of Cyprus in 1489.

As soon as the Venetians acquired Cyprus, they were paranoid about losing it to the rapidly expanding Ottoman Empire. With the mainland only miles away, and the Ottomans gaining strength every year, the Venetians set about fortifying Cyprus. Kyrenia Castle’s walls were greatly enlarged and made thicker to withstand possible artillery attacks, and to resist any siege. The Venetians replaced the simple drawbridge entrance with an elaborate protected gatehouse as seen today, and retained the Byzantine 12th century church of St George the Castle safely within the walls.

Kyrenia Castle also houses the Shipwreck Museum home to one of the most remarkable marine archaeological finds in the world. In 300BC, a trading vessel, laden with millstones and amphorae (large jars) of wine from Kos and Rhodes set sail for Cyprus. The ship was caught in a storm, and was wrecked outside Kyrenia harbor. The remains of the ship sat on the sea bed covered in sand for 2300 years until 1965, when the remains of what was then the oldest recovered ship in the world began to be recovered. The 47ft long hull, made of Aleppo pine covered in lead, is preserved in a specially controlled environment in the Museum, along with wine jars, some utensils used by the crew, and 9000 almonds, which were part of the crew’s rations.

Kyrenia castle, Cyprus

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published