Limassol Byzantine Castle
The Limassol Castle, with its colourful and turbulent history, is located behind the old port, within the old town .
The present structure was built in the 16th AC on the site of an earlier Byzantine Castle, where Richard the Lionheart, King of England, married Princess Berengaria of Navarre in 1191 and crowned her Queen of England.
Limassol Castle: Chronology
The oldest reference to the Limassol Castle, dated 1228, refers to either the old Byzantine Castle or its substitute in the early phases of the Lusignan period. According to Etienne Lusignan, the original Castle was erected by Guy de Lusignan in 1193 and was surrendered to the Knights of Jerusalem in 1308. Excavations within the Castle revealed a marble podium from an early Christian basilica and the floor of a Middle Byzantium monument dated from the 10th or 11th century. In the eastern part of the basement, which consists of three parts, a large apse is preserved which some consider to be part of an important church, possibly that of the first cathedral of the city.
In 1373, the Genoese torched Limassol town after having conquered the Castle and it is likely that the Castle suffered serious damage. At the end of the 14th century the Castle was again restored only to withstand renewed attacks by the Genoese in 1402 and 1408.
In 1413 the Castle survived the first attack of the Mamelikes. However, the structure did receive severe damage as a result of earthquakes, leading to its conquest in 1425 by the Mamelikes in their second attack on the city. Extensive reconstruction then took place at the beginning of 1500. The gothic arches of the underground area and the openings on the side walls can be attributed to this period.
The Ottomans captured Limassol and the Castle in 1538. The Venetian governor of Cyprus, Bragadino, decided to demolish the Castle to avoid its future recapture.
The Ottomans conquered Cyprus in 1576 and incorporated the remains of the Castle into a new Ottoman Fort, which was strengthened considerably with walls measuring 2 metres thick. The underground and the first floor were transformed into prison cells and the Castle remained in use as a prison until 1950.
The Castle: Mediaeval Museum
During the British rule the Limassol Castle was used as a district archaeological museum until 1963. It then underwent renovation and maintenance work before opening as the Mediaeval Museum of Cyprus on 28th March 1987.
Visitors are free to move around and explore at their leisure. Fragile items are displayed in glass cabinets, many sculptures, tombstones and large pieces of marble work are openly displayed. Indeed the antiquities blend in so well with the ambience of the Castle itself that they seem more like well chosen ornaments.
The museum, which is housed within the Limassol Castle, concentrates on the period from the 4th century to around 1870. Items on display include mediaeval pottery from Italy, works of Islamic art, metalwork from the Ottoman period and a collection of ancient coins, scissors, keys, buckles and jewellery dating from the thirteenth century.
In order to accommodate the museum the Castle’s design was transformed, both inside and out. Today the Limassol Castle boasts a huge skylight over its upper floor and a sequence of boardwalks and stairs, making it a fascinating structure well worth a visit.