Castles in Cyprus

Paphos Castle

Paphos (Pafos) Castle was originally a Byzantine fort built to protect the harbour. It was rebuilt by the Lusignans in the 13th century, dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 during the Ottoman invasion and rebuilt by the Ottomans after they captured the island in the 16th century. Originally, this role was served by the Saranta Kolones fort, the ruins of which lie a few hundred meters to the north. During its long history ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

Larnaca Castle

Larnaka Castle was originally a small fort built by the Byzantine rule probably in late 12th century. The city gained importance during the medieval ages after the Genovese occupied the main port of the country and the need for a new port town emerged. Soon after Larnaca became one of the main ports of the Kingdom of Cyprus and the need of a castle protecting the city and the harbour emerged. Between the years 1382-1398 t ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Larnaca, Cyprus

Limassol Castle

The oldest record of the Limassol Castle dates back to 1228 when Fredrik II of Germany and his supporters sent to prison the hostages seized by Ibeline, the king regent of Cyprus. This Castle was likely to be an ancient Byzantine Castle or the one that took its place over the early Frankish period. According to Stephen Lusignan, Guy de Lusignan had the original Castle built in 1193. This original fort, if it really existe ...
Founded: 1193 | Location: Limassol, Cyprus

Kyrenia Castle

The original Kyrenia castle was probably built by Byzantines in the 7th Century to guard the city against the new Arab maritime threat. The first historical reference to the castle occurs in 1191, when King Richard the Lionheart of England captured it on his way to the Third Crusade. He did so by defeating Isaac Comnenus, an upstart local governor who had proclaimed himself emperor. After a short period, Richard sold the ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Kyrenia, Cyprus

Kolossi Castle

Kolossi Castle was a former Crusader castle possibly built in 1210 by the Frankish military, when the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh I to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers). Owing to rivalry among the factions in the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, the castle was taken by the Knights Templar in 1306, but returned to the Hospitallers in 1313 following the abolition of the Templars. The pres ...
Founded: 1454 | Location: Limassol, Cyprus

Buffavento Castle

At 955m above sea level, Buffavento castle stands the highest of the three crusader castles in Cyprus. It probably originated as a Byzantine watch tower to guard against Arab raiders in the 10th century. The castle was extended during the Lusignan rule (1192–1489). The Lusignan kings used the castle mainly as a political prison. In particular, Peter I when reluctantly warned by his friend John Visconti of the queen& ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Kyrenia, Cyprus

Kantara Castle

Very little is known of the Kantara castle"s early days. It is thought to have been built by the Byzantines, probably after the last of the Arab raids in the late 10th century. However there are no remains or records dating from that time. Its first mention was in 1191, during Richard the Lionheart"s Crusade to the Holy land. It was at Kantara that the self-styled king, Isaac Commenos, sheltered before surrender ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Kantara, Cyprus

Saint Hilarion Castle

The Saint Hilarion Castle is the best preserved ruin of the three former strongholds in the Kyrenia mountains, the others being Kantara and Buffavento. Saint Hilarion was originally a monastery, named after a monk who allegedly chose the site for his hermitage, with a monastery and a church built there in the 10th century. Starting in the 11th century, the Byzantines began fortification. Saint Hilarion formed the defense ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Kyrenia, 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

Saranta Kolones Castle Ruins

Saranta Kolones ('Forty Columns castle') is a ruined medieval fortress inside the Paphos Archaeological Park. It takes its name from the large number of granite columns that were found on the site and probably once formed part of the ancient agora. The Byzantine castle is believed to have been built at the end of the 7th century AD to protect the port and the city of Nea Pafos from Arab raids. It was later remod ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.