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Limassol

History

The town of Lemesos (Limassol) is situated between the ancient towns of Amathus and Curium. The English King Richard the Lionheart destroyed Amathus in 1191. Lemesos (Limassol) was probably built after Amathus had been ruined. However, the town of Lemesos (Limassol) was inhabited since the very old times. Graves that were found there date back to 2.000 B.C. and others date back to the 8th and 4th century B.C. These few remains that were left behind show that a small colonization must have existed which did not manage to develop and flourish.

The ancient writers mention nothing about the foundation of the town.

According to the Synod which took place in451 B.C.; the bishop of Theodossiani Sotir as well as the bishops of Amathus and Arsinoe were involved in the foundation. Theodossiani is regarded the same as Lemesos (Limassol) was known later as Neapolis. The records of the 7th Synod (787) refer to it as the bishop’s see. The town was known as Nemesos in the 10th century. Constantine Porfyrogennitos refers to the town by this name.

The history of Lemesos (Limassol) is largely known by the events of 1191 A.D. that put an end to the Byzantine dominion of Cyprus. The king of England, Richard the Lionheart, was travelling to the Holy Land in 1191. His fiance Berengaria and his sister loanna, (Queen of Sicily), were also travelling on a different ship. Because of a storm, the ship with the queens arrived in Lemesos (Limassol). He did not allow the queens to get off the ship and did not even help them. When Richard arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) and met Isaac Comnenus, he asked him to contribute to the crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. While at the beginning Isaac had accepted, he later on refused to give any help.

Richard then chased him and beat him. Cyprus was therefore taken over by the British. Richard celebrated his marriage withBerengaria who had received the crown as queen of England in Cyprus. So, the Byzantine dominion in Cyprus came to an end.

Richard destroyed Amathus and the inhabitants were transferred to Lemesos (Limassol). A year later, in 1192 A.D. Cyprus was sold to the Templars, rich monks and soldiers whose aim was the protection of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This led to the revolt of the Cypriots. They demanded that they should get rid of the bond of the promise. Richard accepted their request and a new purchaser was found: Guy de Lusignan, a Frank, a Roman Catholic. Cyprus was thus handed over to the Frankish Dynasty of the Lusignan kings of the medieval Cypriot kingdom.

For a period of about three centuries 1192-1489, Lemesos (Limassol) enjoyed a remarkable prosperity. This lasted until the occupation of Cyprus by the Turks in 1570 A.D. Latin battalions which established monasteries were settled down there.

The settling down of merchants in Cyprus and particularly in Lemesos (Limassol) in the 13th century led to the financial welfare of its inhabitants. Its harbor as a center of transportation and commerce, contributed greatly to the financial and cultural development.

The King of Germany, Frederick II, urged by the Templars of Cyprus who were enemies of Ibelen, arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) and took over in the town in 1228. He then called John Ibelen to come before him, in order to discuss the plans against the Muslims. John Ibelen came before him accompanied by the under-aged King Eric and all the Templars of Cyprus. When Ibelen refused to cooperate, Frederick had no choice but to let him go. The German King took over in Lemesos (Limassol) and in other towns. He appointed his own governors but he finally left Cyprus. The forces of Frederick were finally beaten in the battle of 1229, which took place in Agirta, a village in the Kyrenia area, between the forces of Frederick and the troops of the Franks, which were led by John Ibelen. The outcome of the battle meant the beginning of the freedom of Cyprus from the Germans.

Lemesos (Limassol) witnessed the attacks of the Mamelukes of Egypt. The harbor of Lemesos (Limassol) had become a refuge for the pirates who were ravaging the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and were stealing the products of the Mohammedans. The lords were getting richer and richer because of the money that was given to them for their assistance to the pirates. Thus, a military force arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) in1424, sent by the Mamelukes of Egypt. The Mamelukes devastated and burned Lemesos (Limassol). A year later, they invaded Cyprus again, this time with greater forces. They plundered Famagusta and Larnaca, and then arrived in Lemesos (Limassol) where without any difficulty they occupied the Castle, burned many places, plundered others and then returned to Cairo. The Mamelukes caused even greater destruction in Lemesos (Limassol) and other places in 1426. Janus, the king of Cyprus, was defeated by them in Chirokitia and was sent back to Cairo as a prisoner.

Cyprus was sold in1489 A.D. to the town of Venice by the Cypriot Queen Catherine Cornaro. The Venetianswere not interested in Cyprus. They were only interested in receiving the taxes and in exploiting the country’s sources. They destroyed the Castle of Lemesos (Limassol) in1539.

Travelers who visited Cyprus in the 16th century commented on the poor condition of the local population in the towns of Cyprus.

All the inhabitants of Cyprus were enslaved by the Venetians, and were obliged to pay a tribute of 1/3 of their income, whether this was part of their products of the land, e.g. wheat, wine, oil, or animals or of any other product.

The Turks invaded Cyprus in 1570-1571 and occupied it. Lemesos (Limassol) was conquered in July 1570 without any resistance. The Turks devastated and burned it. Descriptions of different visitors inform us that the town of Lemesos (Limassol) looked like a village with a considerable number of inhabitants. The Christians used to live in small houses of such low height, that one had to bend in order to enter the house. This was deliberately chosen in order to prevent the Turks from riding a horse, to enter the houses.

During the years of the Turkish domination, Cyprus faced a general decline. The Turks did not contribute to any development. Greeks and Turks used to live in distinct neighborhoods. During the years of the Turkish domination, the intellectual standard of the Cypriots had declined. The lack of interest on the part of conquerors, the oppression and the high taxation were restraining factors for the intellectual development of the children. The church played an important role in the education of the country during the years 1754-1821.

The British took over in Cyprus in 1878. The first British governor of Lemesos (Limassol) was Colonel Warren. He showed a particular interest in Lemesos (Limassol) and even from the very first days the condition of the town showed an improvement. The roads were cleaned, the animals were removed from the center, roads were fixed, trees were planted and docks were constructed for the loading and unloading of those ships that were embarked away from the shore. Lanterns for the lighting of the central areas were also installed in the I880. In 1912, electricity finally replaced the old lanterns.

From the very first years of the British occupation, a post office, a telegraph office and a hospital began to operate. In 1880 the first printing press started working.
At the end of the 19th century the very first hotels began to operate. These changes that the British brought about contributed to the development of an intellectual and artistic life.
Schools, theaters, clubs, art galleries, music halls, sport societies, football clubs etc. were all set up and meant a great deal to the cultural life of Lemesos (Limassol).

The rise of the population birth rate during the late 19th and 20th c. (1878-1960) was 70%. The number of inhabitants was 6.131 in 1881, while in 1960 the number had risen to 43.593. The number of the Greek population was estimated at 37.478, while the Turkish population at 6.115.

Job opportunities concerned the wine and ceramic industries, as well as the commerce and tourism developed by the port.

The Turkish-Cypriot inhabitants of Lemesos (Limassol) were transferred to the north of Cyprus in 1975 because of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974. Accordingly, many Greek-Cypriots who became refugees after they had fled from the north of Cyprus settled down in Lemesos (Limassol).

When Famagusta, one of the most important tourist areas of Cyprus was occupied by the Turkish troops, Lemesos (Limassol) rapidly expanded. Luxury hotels, restaurants and numerous places of entertainment were built, so that the town soon became a center of commerce.

Touring

The Archaeological Museum
Kaningos - Vyronos corner, near the Public Garden. Tel. no. 25 305132
The museum provides a very interesting collection of antiquities found in the district of Lemesos (Limassol), dating from the Neolithic age to the Roman period. Some of the archaeological discoveries are:
Stone axes of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic period, potteries and objects of the ancient cities of Curium and Amathus, as well as roman terra cottas, gold jewelery, coins, sculptures, columns, vases, earrings, rings, necklaces, marble statues etc.

The Folk Art Museum
253, Ayiou Andreou Street, Tel. 25 362303
This beautifully preserved old house provides a very interesting collection of Cypriot Folk Art of the last two centuries. Some of the most fascinating objects of the collection are: national costumes, tapestry, embroidery, wooden chests, waistcoats, men’s jackets, necklaces, a variety of light clothes, town costumes, country tools etc.
The museum was established in 1985. More than 500 exhibits are housed in its six rooms. The museum was awarded the Europa Nostra prize, in 1989. Here, the visitor can study Cypriot culture through the hand-made exhibits.

The Municipal Art Gallery
28th October Str., Tel. 25 343212
The Gallery has a splendid collection of paintings, including works of Cypriot artists, on permanent display. Some of them are: M. Kashalos, Chr. Savva, T. Kanthos,
A. Diamandes, V. Joannides, T. Frangoudes

The Medieval Museum
(Within the Castle), Tel. no. 25 305419
This rich medieval museum is found inside the castle of the town, which is close to the old port. The collection that the museum provides covers the era of 400 - l870 A.D. A visitor can see numerous exhibits: cannons, wood carvings of the 17th and 18th century, paintings and tombstones, statues, suits of armor, coins, terracotta, metalware and pottery, glass and marble articrafts.
According to the tradition, Richard the Lionheart is said to have married Queen Berengaria of Navarre in this castle in 181 and crowned her Queen of England.

The Castle
The Castle was built by the Byzantines around l000 A.D. Around the same period, a chapel was also built there. According to the legend, it was in this chapel that the wedding of Richard the Lionheart with Berengaria took place, when the king was landed near Amathus, on his way to the Holy Land during the third Crusade. When the chapel was destroyed by an earthquake in 184, a new church of Gothic style was built in its place by the Knights Templar in the same year. With the extension later of the Castle the church came to be included in the Castle grounds. Later on, in 1382, the interior of the church (today’s basement chapel, cells, towers) became part of the castle.

The Castle was conquered by the Mamelukes in 1426 and it later on surrendered to the Knights of the Order of St. John. The Venetians pulled the oId Castle down and used the stones to build the city walls, between 1559 and 1567. The Turks erected part of the Castle in 1570, using it for the defense of the city. The Castle was used as a prison, between 1790-1940. After a few minor repairs in 1951, it was temporarily used as the Archaeological Museum of Lemesos (Limassol).

The Public Garden and the Zoo
They are situated on the coastal road. They provide a great variety of vegetation: eucalyptus trees, pine trees and cypresses. In this beautiful environment the citizens of Lemesos (Limassol) and many visitors can walk around and enjoy themselves.

The two stone statues of lions, which were placed in the south entrance of the garden in 1911, keep wakeful guard over the garden and its visitors. A little further, there is the magnificent bust of Christodoulos Sozos, a hero who was a Mayor of Lemesos (Limassol), and a Member of Parliament. He died while he was fighting for liberty and democracy on the 6th of December 1912, on the hill of the prophet Elias at loannina, in Creece. His bust was placed there on the 14th June 1915.

Inside the garden, there is a small zoo. There, the visitor can see deer, moufflons, ostriches, pheasants, tigers, lions, an elephant, monkeys, vultures, pelicans and other animals and different kinds of birds.

Not far from the zoo there is the small natural history museum and the garden theatre that is reconstructed to host famous international groups. A few yards away there is the bust of the Limassolian writer N. Nicolaides bearing the inscription ?Nicos Nicolaides Artist, a distinguished writer, 1884-1956?.

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