'There are 365 churches in
Famagusta, one for every day of the year.' I have heard this piece of
many local people, and also found it in many guide books,
but the statement is not true. (Bill Dreghorn)
St Nicholas cathedral, there are 17 churches within the town walls. They are all marked on this map.
Famagusta seems to have suddenly sprung up as a medieval
fortress city of the first rank about the year 1300, when the refugees
from Syria and Palestine (after the fall of Acre, 1291) were offered an asylum here by the
Lusignan King Henry II.
"The third city of Cyprus is called Famagusta, situated on the
sea shore; here are the harbours of all this sea and realm, and a
concourse of merchants and pilgrims. It lies directly opposite to Armenia, Turkey and Acre. It is the richest of all cities and her
citizens are the richest of men. A citizen once betrothed his
daughter, and the jewels of her head-dress were valued by the
French knights who came with us as more precious than all the
ornaments of the Queen of France." (Ludolf von Suchen, "De
Terra Sancta", 1336).
De Mas Latrie ("Histoire de Chypre", p. 512) remarks: "Le royaume de Chypre resta toujours en effet, pour l'Europe
comme l'heritiere et le representant du Royaume de Jerusalem.
En lui se confondaient le passé et l'esperance des Croisades. Le
Royaume de Chypre continua ainsi dans son organisation generale
autant dans l'ordre civil que dans l'ordre politique et ecclesistique
l'ancien Royaume de Jerusalem." This heritage of the Jerusalem
Kingdom, with its commercial enterprise of the crusading epoch was
of short duration in Cyprus. The extravagant luxury and splendour
of the community which had been transferred from Acre to Famagusta in 1300 was doomed to disappear as suddenly as it had arisen,
and the Genoese invasion appears to have swept it entirely away.
After the Genoese Occupation of Famagusta in 1372, the
Italian notary Nicholas Martoni wrote the following account of
his visit to the city in 1394: "The city of Famagusta is as large,
I reckon, as the city of Capua, and has fine squares, and houses
very much like those of Capua, but a great part, almost a third,
is uninhabited, and the houses are destroyed, and this has been
done since the date of the Genoese lordship. The said city has
finer walls than I have seen in any town, high with broad alleys
round them, and many and high towers all round."
Since the year 1400 the city has passed through the vicissitudes
of being a strong fortress of the Venetians, a penal settlement of
the Turks, and lastly a quarry of old building materials whence
much of the stone used in constructing the Suez Canal has been
drawn. Once the busy "Emporium of the East", its former
greatness is only evinced by a ruined cathedral and stupendous
Topography op the City
During the middle ages the usual division of a city into quarters
is referred to in descriptions of Famagusta. The quarter of the
Zecca or Mint is mentioned in the Genoese records, and this quarter
is marked on the famous plan of Gibellino (1571) as situated near
the land gate of the fortress on its south side. The quarter of the
Arsenal consisted of the buildings attached to that important
institution, and its surroundings.
The city seems also to have been broadly divided into a Latin
half on the north and west, and an Orthodox half on the south
and east. This division between the races and religions of the
middle ages was marked by the main street which runs between
the Land Gate and the Sea Gate, passing through the main piazza in front of the royal palace. This street probably formed for the greater part of its length a kind of covered bazaar, some remains
of which still stand amongst the ruins of the south side of the
palace. A secondary bazaar leading from the north-west corner of
the main piazza in the direction of the north-west angle of the city
walls was known as the "Volta Templi", built about 1300 in
conjunction with the church of the Order of the Temple. A
street leading from the centre of the main piazza in a direction
due north seems to have been of some importance to judge by the
remains of architectural buildings still surviving in it.
Wealth and luxury
On the north side of the city, near the citadel, was the parade
ground and the shooting butts. The presence of much wealth and
luxury naturally necessitated a strong protecting wall round such
a city as Famagusta had become, and the magnificent rock-hewn
ditch which forms the most remarkable feature of the fortifications
doubtless was excavated both as a protection and as a quarry for
stone to be used in the new buildings of the early XIIIth century.
In addition to the existing Land Gate and Sea Gate there
appear to have been two smaller gates or posterns. The outline
of a walled up entrance may be traced in the curtain wall between
the Campo Santo and Andruzzi Bastions, and traces of another
and larger gate survive in the curtain between the Diamantino
and Signoria Bastions. One of the town gates was known in the
middle ages as "Porta della Cava" a name which may have been
derived from the shrine of the "Madonna della Cava" on the
south side of the city. (Source: Historic Monuments of Cyprus, Jeffery).