The Lusignan Dynasty

Coat of Arms
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| Heraldry in Cyprus |
| Royaume de Chypre |
| Sources: Bibliography, Cyprus |

Overview Cyprus |

1192 - 1489

Rule by the Frankish Lusignan dynasty


The insignia of the Order of the Sword,
with the Lusignan motto

' Pour Lealte Maintenir '

(English: 'Maintain or Vindicate Loyalty')

established by Peter I

(1358 - 1369)

The coat of arms of the Lusignans - Symbolic or decorative designs and pictures on shields were already common with many peoples in the ancient times. The medieval times brought a refinement of this custom and through the Crusades it came to the eastern Mediterranean and thus to Cyprus. Coats of arms were used on public buildings, tombs and in wall paintings. Some can still be found today in the old buildings but some were transferred to newer ones and others to museums. Cyprus was first confronted with medieval heraldry by Richard the Lionheart and saw a good deal more of it during the reign of the Templars (1191-1192), the Lusignans (as well as the Venetians (1489-1571)).

Above all the fall of Acre (1291) brought a large number of noblemen, knights and clergymen to Cyprus, who added their coats of arms to the ones of the local barons. The development of the coat of arms of the Lusignans can be studied best in two places: the coat of arms at the Castle of Kolossi (in the southern part of the island) and the coat of arms in the Refectory of the Bellapais Abbey (Northern Cyprus).

In Kolossi a framed crosslike plate bears four shields with coats of arms in relief.

In the middle is the coat of arms of the King divided into four sections. In the first section a square crutchstick cross between four crosses, in the second a crowned lion standing on his hind legs on a background of coloured bars; in the third section there is the same lion for Cyprus and in the fourth again for Armenia. This coat of arms is accentuated, by a crown with an ornament of flowers. On the left there is the coat of arms of Jean de Lastic, Grandmaster of the Order of the Hospitallers in Rhodes in 1427; section one and four contain single crosses, the coat of arms of the order and in section two and three there are horizontal bars as his personal coat of arms. On the right side there is a similar coat of arms of Jaques de Milli, who was also Grandmaster of the Order between 1454 and 1461. And finally the coat of arms of Louis de Magnac, head of the same order in Cyprus, who held the fief of Kolossi between 1450 and 1468 and who probably built the castle.

The Lusignan lion was first found on the coins of Hugh II (1267- 84). A crowned lion, standing on his hind legs is also found on the coins of Henry II (1284-1304). His brother Amalric, who seized power for a few years in 1304 placed this lion on the frontside of the first coins issued by him together with his name, surrounded by writing and on the backside the 'Cross of Jerusalem', (as seen in Kolossi) and the name of his brother, in writing. On later coins he joined the two coats of arms. This is the first time that the heraldic emblem of the lost Crown of Jerusalem appears on a Cypriot coin. This happened shortly after the fall of Acre (1291), when the title of the King of Jerusalem (the coronations of the Kings of Cyprus as Kings of Jerusalem took place in Famagusta) had become an honorary one.

The combination of the two heraldic elements can best be seen in the three coats of arms which are chiseled into a marble lintel of the refectory of Bellapais Abbey and seem to date from Hugh IV. (1324-1359).
The development of the coat of arms was terminated by James I., who acquired the likewise honorary title of a King of Armenia in 1393: he replaces the Lusignan lion in the third quarter by the lion of Armenia. Thus the coat of arms was created which was described at the castle of Kolossi." (Quoted from J. Stylianou, ÜMBK)

The island became finally the last foothold of the Crusaders, although according to the wishes of its conquerers it was to have been the starting point as well as the base for expeditions to Palestine and Syria. The development of the coat of arms is in the end only a reflection of this situation. (end)