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Venetians


Caterina Cornaro

The wedding of the last Lusignan King James and Caterina Cornaro took place in the Cathedral of St Nicholas in December 1471. Caterina Cornaro was officially adopted as “daughter of St Mark”, patron saint of Venice . Through this marriage, James was able to bring his kingdom into closer association with Venice that had come to regard the possession of Cyprus as necessary to consolidate its position in the Eastern Mediterranean . In 1474, after the death of King James and her son, Caterina Cornaro aged 19 became Queen of Cyprus. James' death signalled in effect the end of the Lusignan dynasty in Cyprus . Caterina Cornaro governed the island from her palace for five consecutive years until she was forced to cede power to the Vice Admiral, representative of the Venetian Republic , in an official ceremony that took place on the 26 of February 1489 in the Cathedral of St Nicholas.

Queen Catherine Cornaro.
From the private collection of Costas and Rita Severis

Venetian Rule 1489-1571

The Venetian took over the island under the threatening eyes of the Ottoman Turks. Cyprus was strategically important for Venice in its war against the Ottomans, especially after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, as the conquest of Cyprus served Venice’s commercial, economic and political interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Famagusta’s defence capability became a constant preoccupation for the Venetian. The city already in decline, was ravaged by the constant disputes between the Lusignans and the Genoese. All commercial activity had stopped, and the inhabitants of the city lived in miserable conditions. The Venetian, conscious of the imminent Ottoman threat, were resolved to strengthen the defensive architecture of the city. They brought highly skilled Venetian engineers, master masons and apprentices to restructure the walls and construct other fortification works, particularly at this time, as gunpowder was becoming increasingly used in military operations. The plans for the new walls of Famagusta were designed by the architect Giovanni Girolamo Sanmichele who however, got sick and died in Cyprus.
New bastions were built (the Ravelin, the Tower of the Arsenal and Martinengo) so as to protect the city from land and sea. The castle of the harbour had its own separate moat in order to isolate the city from the harbour. Additionally, the string of islets and rocks – the natural breakwater that stretched parallel to the coast-and the two towers closed off by a chain in order to protect the inner harbour, were also improved. Once all these works were completed, the Venetian went on to restore the Palace and part of the central square.

Venetian Rule, (click on thumbnails or captions to see enlarged photographs)

The moat and the entrance to the city through the Land Gate.
Detail depicting the Lion of Venice over the mediaeval town of Famagusta on the map of Ferrandus Bertelli, 1572. From the book “Maps and Atlases” by Maria Iacovou. Publication of the Cultural Foundation of the Bank of Cyprus
The walls from the Martinengo Bastion The emblem of Venice. The winged Lion

The Palace of the Proveditore in the heart of the city

The Lion of Venice in the internal part of the Sea Gate
The emblem of Venice on the Sea Gate The Martinengo Bastion at the south-western corner of the walls
     
The internal part of the Sea Gate
     

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