Top Historic Sights in Famagusta, Cyprus

Explore the historic highlights of Famagusta

Salamis

The region round the bay of Salamis is one of the most favoured in the whole island and Salamis city became the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC. The city shared the destiny of the rest of the island during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East, viz. the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore. ...
Founded: 1100 BC | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. Anna Church

St. Anna"s church was built in the 14th century, and is thought to have been part of a monastery. It is single-aisled with two bays, and Gothic features resembling those of southern France. The walls are supported by external buttresses, between which can be seen tall windows, a typically Gothic feature. The apse is polygonal with buttresses. Originally the facade supported a belfry, but that has disappeared.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Armenian Church

The Armenians came to Cyprus from the southern coast of Turkey before the French Lusignans arrived in 1192. Like other non-Latin or non-Orthodox Christians, they settled in the Syrian quarter of the city, so named because that was where the Carmelites from Syria were based. The Armenian church was probably built in the 14th century by Armenian refugees. It is quite small, with just one aisle and a cylindrical apse. The r ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque

The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque originally known as Saint Nicholas"s Cathedral and later as the Ayasofya (Saint Sophia) Mosque of Magusa, is the largest medieval building in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus. The cathedral was constructed from 1298 to 1312 and was consecrated in 1328. 'After an unfortunate episode when the current bishop embezzled the restoration fund', Bishop Guy of Ibelin bequeathed 20,000 bezants ...
Founded: 1298-1312 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. Francis Church

St Francis church was originally part of a Franciscan monastery, and was alongside the Royal Palace. Today it can be found close to the Venetian Palace. It consists of a three-sided apse with a small chapel off the south side. Buttressing supported the external walls. It was built in the early years of the 14th century with funding supplied by Henry II, King of Cyprus who reigned from 1285 to 1324. Henry"s reign was ...
Founded: c. 1310 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Venetian Palace Ruins

At the western end of Namik Kemal square, you will find the remains of the Venetian governor"s palace (Palazzo del Proveditore). When the Venetians took over Cyprus, it was not by force, but as the end result of intrigue perpetrated over many years. In 1468 they arranged a marriage between the Lusignan king James II, and Caterina Cornaro, the 18 year old daughter of one of Venice"s most noble families. The Vene ...
Founded: c. 1550 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. George of the Greeks Church Ruins

Built beside the small Byzantine church of St. Symeon, the church of St. George was a Orthodox Cathedral. An elegant mix of Gothic and Byzantine styles it was intended to rival its Catholic counterpart. However it was too big, with insufficient buttressing and a roof that was going to be too heavy. The pillars throughout the nave were expanded to take more weight and the roof was inserted with large upturned terracotta po ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Othello Castle

Othello Castle was originally built as a moated citadel by the House of Lusignan in the 14th century to protect Famagusta"s harbour, and was originally the main entrance to the town. The tower was restored 3 years after Cyprus was sold to the Republic of Venice, under the command of captain Nicolo Foscari. After the restoration the Lion of St. Marcus was engraved on the entrance, along with captain Nicolo Foscari&quo ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Land Gate

The Land Gate is one of the two original entries to the walled city of Famagusta, the other one being the Sea Gate, and is the most spectacular. It is the second oldest part of the walls, after the Othello"s Tower. It is also the most interesting part to those interested in military fortifications. Over the centuries it has been called the Ravelin, the Rivettina Bastion and the Akkule, depending on who ruled Famagust ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. George of the Latins Church Ruins

St George of the Latins is the remains of one of the earliest churches in Famagusta. The exact date of construction is unknown, but evidence of a crenellated parapet where defenders could protect the church, hints that it was built at a time when the Lusignans had not yet completed the city walls. Its design was supposedly inspired by St. Chapelle church in Paris, which was built in 1241. Generally, it is thought that the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Sinan Pasha Mosque was built around 1360 (originally as Christian Church of Saints Peter and Paul), supposedly with a third of the profits of a single trading venture of one of Famagusta"s wealthiest businessmen, Simon Nostrano. it is one of the largest of the Gothic cathedrals in Famagusta, and is similar in design to St George of the Greeks, which was built around the same time. Because of its massive height, the ...
Founded: 1360 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Ayia Zoni Church

Ayia Zoni church is in the south east corner of Famagusta, close to St Nikolas" church, and is one of three remaining Byzantine churches in the area. Ayia Zoni is dedicated to the sacred belt of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, the Holy Belt was made by the Virgin Mary herself out of camel hair. It was approximately 90cm long, with little strings at the end to tie it up. Three days after she died, during her ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Nestorian Church

The Nestorian church is top be found in the north west quarter of Famagusta, where most middle east Christians settled. The Nestorians mainly arrived after the fall of Acre in 1291. They were mainly merchants, and extremely wealthy. This church was reputedly built in 1359 by Francis Lakhas, who is said to be so rich that he once ground up a diamond to spread on his food, just to show that he could afford to do it. In spi ...
Founded: 1359 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Carmelite Church Ruins

The church of St Mary of the Carmelites is situated in the north west corner of Famagusta. In the 13th century, as the Muslim armies gradually reclaimed the Holy Land, many middle eastern Christians fled to Famagusta. Although Christian, their specific beliefs differed from that of Latin or Orthodox Christians. Because of this, they tended to congregate in the same area, and here you will find churches of the Nestorians, ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.