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The origins of the town of Famagusta date back to 2000 B.C when a settlement called Alasia was built in the area. Other towns that were built later in the area like Arsinoe, Salamis (another important Greek city in Cyprus and in the region) and Constantia are also considered to be the predecessors of Famagusta.

The Lusignians and the Venetians
Famagusta's most interesting history begins in the medieval era when Cyprus was under Lusignian rule. As a harbor city between three continents, Famagusta flourished. What is known as the Old town of Famagusta took shape around this time. Travelers, who visited Famagusta in the 14th century, described it as the richest city in Cyprus and in the region.

The medieval architectural monuments of the city can only confirm these narrations. Massive walls and bastions that were surrounded by a moat fortified Famagusta. A magnificent gothic Cathedral dedicated to St. Nicholas was built in the early 14th century. At the same time it has been said that there were 365 churches in the town - one for every day of the year.

The decline of the city began in the15th century with the discovery of alternative sea routes to Asia. Yet, Famagusta continued to be an important outpost in the Eastern Mediterranean. When the Venetians occupied Cyprus in the late 15th century they remodeled extensively the city's walls. The Venetian occupation on Cyprus lasted for almost a century. The Ottoman Turks invaded Cyprus in 1570 and after a long siege that lasted almost one year and in which they lost over 80,000 soldiers, on the 9th of August 1571 Famagusta's Greek and Italian defenders (who had exhausted their food and ammunition) surrendered the town to the Turks who eventually massacred them.

From Ottoman and British rule to independence
During the 3 centuries of Ottoman occupation, Famagusta and the rest of the island remained in a state of neglect and eventually declined. Since the Christian inhabitants of the city were not anymore to live within the walled city, a new settlement called "Varosha" or the new town of Famagusta grew right outside the walled sector of Famagusta. In the late 18th century, the Turks demolished several monuments of the old city so that the stones from them could be used to help built Port Said, at the entrance of the Suez Canal.

Under British colonial rule Famagusta started regaining its importance again and soon became the most important harbor in Cyprus. Independence and the rapid development of tourism reshaped the urban environment of Famagusta. By 1974 the town of Famagusta claimed over 50% of the island's hotel capacity, 83% of its import and export trade and 10% of the industrial production.

The Turkish invasion in 1974
Famagusta's rapid development and prosperity came to an abrupt end in 1974. During the Turkish invasion in 1974, the town was bombed repeatedly by Turkish warplanes. On August 16th 1974, the Turkish army entered the town that was abandoned only hours before by its defenceless inhabitants. While the Turks continue to live in the old town of Famagusta, since 1974 the new town of Famagusta remains a "ghost town"and its 40,000 inhabitants are still in exile.


Salamis Ancient Roman City

Salamis Ancient Roman City

The ancient city of Salamis became the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC. The city shared the destiny of the rest of the island during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East, viz. the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore.

Agios Ioannis Greek Orthodox Church & Icon Museum

Agios Ioannis Greek Orthodox Church & Icon Museum

The Agios Ioannis Greek Orthodox church in Famagusta has been recently renovated and opened as an icon museum.
The museum, contains more than 120 icons, including those of Christ and Saint John, painted in the 18th century.

Porta del Mare (Sea Gate)

Porta del Mare

It is one of the two original gates of the walled city. It was built by the Venetian Captain of Famagusta, Nicola Prioli in 1496.
The wooden gate covered with iron, dates from the Turkish period and the large iron portcullis which could be raised and lowered by chains dates from the Venetian era. Above the gate stand the winged Lion of Venice, the name of Captain Nicola Prioli with his coat-of-arms and the date of 1496, carved on marble. This marble is thought to have been brought from Salamis. By the inner side of this gate there is a lion made of marble.

Saint Barnabas Monastery & Museum

The Monastery of St. Barnabas is at the opposite side of the Salamis-Famagusta road, by the Royal Tombs. You can easily tell it by its two fairly large domes. It was built to commemorate the foremost saint of Cyprus, whose life was so intertwined with the spread of the Christian message in the years immediately following the death of Christ.

Bronze Age Settlement of Engomi-Alasia

Bronze Age Settlement of Engomi-Alasia
At Engomi, archeologists have uncovered the remains of a great Bronze Age city, possibly that of ancient Alasia, whose kings shipped copper to the Pharaohs of Egypt.
The site contains some of the richest Bronze Age tombs ever excavated. Items discovered there include gold and ivory objects, imitation diamonds, glass vases, and rare examples of Mycenian pottery.

Church of St George of the Latin's

The sketch of the church shows this to be a picturesque ruin, but typical of the French style of architecture. The tall lancet shaped windows are rather highly placed and this has led some historians to suggest that it was a fortified church built in the days when the medieval walls had not yet been put up. © 2008