Sightseeing in Kyrenia
Nicosia / Kyrenia / Famagusta / Guzelyurt
Kyrenia Castle, located at the end of the famous harbour, is a spectacular site to visit. It was built by the Romans with a seawall in front of it so that boats and ships could anchor in safety. After Cyprus became a part of Byzantine Empire and the Greek Orthodox Church in 395, the Byzantine emperors fortified the castle. In the 10th century, they constructed in its vicinity a church dedicated to St. George which was used as an army chapel. The castle and garrison offered inhabitants protection and security.
In 1192, after Cyprus was sold to Guy de Lusignan, the castle was enlarged. In the end of the 15th century, the Venetians modified Kyrenia Castle in order to meet new military threat posed by the use of gunpowder and cannons. The castle's royal quarters and three of its four thin Frankish towers were replaced by thick circular towers that could better withstand cannon fire. These new towers, however, were not put to the test. In 1571, the castle and the town surrendered to the Ottoman army.
There are three main periods in the history of the Kyrenia Castle:
1. Byzantine Castle (330 A.D. - 1192 A.D.)
2. Crusader Castle (1192 A.D. - 1472 A.D.)
3. Venetian Castle (1472 A.D. - 1570 A.D.)
Today the castle hosts the Shipwreck Museum, exhibiting the remains of a 4th century Greek ship, discovered in 1967 not far from Kyrenia. The Kyrenia ship, as it is called, was extensively covered by the National Geographic Society.
In 1856, following the Hatt-I-Humayum which introduced greater religious freedom for the various peoples of the Ottoman Empire, the church of Archangel Michael was rebuilt on a rocky mount overlooking the sea. The church is still there presently housing an icon museum.
There is also a small ruined Christian church behind the harbour. The Anglican church of St. Andrew's is situated behind the castle and is open all year round.
Outside the town, on the Kyrenia Mountain Range, you can see the Buffavento Castle, St. Hilarion Castle and Kantara Castle. Along with Kyrenia Castle, these four fortifications formed a defence system that protected the town from land and sea attacks.
During the Lusignan rule the Buffavento Castle had a name of "Chateau du Lion" and served as a prison. It is believed that after Richard the Lion Heart came to Cyprus, the Byzantine King of the island, Isaac Comnenus, was imprisoned there.
St. Hilarion castle was originally a monastery, founded by a monk Hilarion. The monastery was rebuilt into a castle in the 12th century.
The Kantara castle was probably constructed by the Byzantines following the Arab raids on Cyprus. The castle was first mentioned in 1191, when Richard the Lion Heart conquered the island.
Bellapais Abbey, the former monastery, is situated in Bellapais village. It was constructed between 1198 and 1205. Bellapais Abbey derives from the French "abbey de la paix" which means the Peace Monastery. The initial building was constructed between 1198 and 1205. The main building was built during the 13th century A.D. by the monks of the Order of St. Augustine. The pavilions around the courtyard and the refectory were constructed during the rule of King Hugh IV between 1324 and 1359. You can also visit here the Ancient Greek Orthodox Church of Mother Mary White Dressed.