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

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy"s most lavish country retreat: during Spain"s Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer"s house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King"s Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince"s Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King"s Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince"s Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI"s old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette"s gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.