Knights Templar legacy lives on in Cyprus
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, July 13, 2024

Knights Templar legacy lives on in Cyprus
An archaeological officer shows a sword thought to be from the period of the crusades, on January 22, 2021 on the site where a chapel of the Knights Templar was built at the Limassol medieval castle, now housing the Cyprus Medieval Museum in the coastal Cypriot city. Fables of the Knights Templar are legend, but deep beneath a castle on Cyprus -- an island once owned by the Crusader brotherhood -- lies a legacy historians say still resonates today. Alex MITA / AFP.

by Peter Martell

LIMASSOL (AFP).- Fables of the Knights Templar are legend, but deep beneath a castle on Cyprus -- an island once owned by the Crusader brotherhood -- lies a legacy historians say still resonates today.

Down steep, narrow and uneven stone stairs in the fort of Limassol is a low-vaulted room lined with tombstones of medieval knights.

This is the chapel where England's King Richard the Lionheart is believed to have been married, en route to the Holy Land in 1192.

"The architecture and the artefacts here reflect the broad history of Cyprus," said Elena Stylianou, a government archaeologist, brandishing a long Crusader-era sword, rusted and chipped but still sharp.

"Cyprus was a place that many outsiders wanted to capture and own."

Richard, the first of so many British visitors to the sunny island, celebrated his wedding night downing sweet red wine -- before spending his honeymoon laying waste to the countryside, burning, looting and adding Cyprus to his possessions.

After the defeated Cypriot ruler surrendered -- reportedly on condition he was not bound in iron chains, so Richard used silver shackles instead -- the English king swiftly sold Cyprus to the Templars.

'European orientation'

The Cyprus Medieval Museum, now housed in the Mediterranean port city's fort, says that while the main castle walls date from the 16th century Ottoman period, they sit on far older foundations.

The vault is "probably a chapel of the primary fortifications of the Knights Templar" on Cyprus.

The Templars, an international army of elite warriors set up to guard European pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem, used the island as their headquarters to fight military campaigns authorised by the pope in the Holy Land, just over 100 kilometres (65 miles) to the southeast.

Cypriot medieval historian Nicholas Coureas said the Crusades were a key step in forging the island's national character.

"The most lasting consequence of the conquest of Richard is that although Cyprus would change hands several times, it still has a European orientation... and most Cypriots identify more with Europe than say they do with Asia and Africa," Coureas said.

"Thanks to its geographical position, and its population, Cyprus is on the edge of Europe, but with strong links to the Middle East," he added.

Coureas works with the government-backed Cyprus Research Centre, which focuses on national history and sociology.

He argues that for the most easterly member of the European Union, history is not just about dusty schoolbooks, but about how citizens see themselves today -- part of Europe, far into the past.

'Base of operations'

That view matters today. The island has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of Cyprus in response to an Athens-sponsored coup seeking to annex the island to Greece.

A UN-patrolled buffer zone runs between the Greek-speaking, Orthodox Christian-majority south and the breakaway Muslim-majority Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara.

British military bases, which remain sovereign UK territory, cover three percent of the former British colony.

"The Crusades are very relevant today, because there are a lot of parallels," Coureas said.

"What also started in the Crusade period... was the importance of Cyprus as a base of operations for Western forces operating in the Middle East and North Africa."

He noted that the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi was supported from a British airbase near Limassol.

And the echoes of Crusader history even stretch to wine: the island's sweet "Commandaria" red, named by the knights, is the oldest manufactured wine and "protected designation of origin" certification, according to the Guinness World Records.

Its label bears the word "Crusaders".

While the Templars owned Cyprus outright for only eight months before selling it to French Guy de Lusignan, the order maintained castles on the island.

And, after they were finally chased out of the Holy Land, the Templars made Cyprus their headquarters in 1291.

Myths tell of how the Templars hid their wealth -- including, according to novels and films, the Holy Grail -- when the order was damned as heretical in 1307 and the knights burned at the stake.

The Templar fortune may have long vanished, but Stylianou hopes the ancient sites might help draw visitors back to Cyprus, whose vital tourism industry has been devastated by coronavirus restrictions.

Cyprus is dotted with castles and ruins left by the Crusaders, including the castle of Kolossi, once a key base of the Knights Hospitallers, and the dramatic fortress of Saint Hilarion.

Perched on a mountain ridge above the northern port of Kyrenia, it looks like it inspired Walt Disney's fairytale castle.

"When people can, I think they will come," Stylianou said.

"Because when you are stuck at home, you miss something... and these sites bring you closer to your past."

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

April 19, 2021

One of Monet's finest large-scale 'Water Lilies' paintings to star at Sotheby's

Farnsworth announces historic bequest of 27 major Wyeth works from Betsy Wyeth

Exhibition includes museum's five conserved mosaics from the ancient city of Antioch

Knights Templar legacy lives on in Cyprus

Holy grails and history-makers abound in Heritage Auctions' staggering spring sports auction

Asian American artists, now activists, push back against hate

25th annual McNay Print Fair goes virtual

The Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona announces new extension to be completed at the end of 2023

Rusty Young, country rock pioneer, is dead at 75

How many Tyrannosaurus Rexes ever lived on Earth? Here's a new clue

Taking over Victory Gardens to make a 'theater for all'

Liam Scarlett, acclaimed British choreographer, dies at 35

Tate Britain Commission: Heather Phillipson RUPTURE NO.1: blowtorching the bitten peach

A battle of boos and cheers at the symphony

Hirshhorn presents Yoko Ono's "Wish Tree for Washington, DC" in a virtual activation on Instagram

How Helen McCrory shone, even in a haze of mystery

The Oscars are a week away, but will anyone watch?

Jewelry from important California philanthropist Janet Salter coming to Heritage Auctions

Espace Louis Vuitton München opens a new exhibition dedicated to French artist Cyprien Gaillard

Important Ming Dynasty jade water pot to be offered at auction in May for the Alzheimer's Society

Heritage Auctions' April Monthly Showcase Sports Auction nets an NBA Top Shot record price

Gustavo Dudamel hasn't conducted much opera. That's OK.

Marion Fink joins C24 Gallery

Erika Dilday announced as the new Executive Director of American Documentary Inc.

Imagerocket - Best Instagram Photo Downloader

Which is better Acai bowl or a Pitaya bowl?

Bristol boarding school

What You Need To Know About CBD Concentrates

Where to Download Free Notification Sounds?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful