Famagusta was founded by Egyptian settlers in 3rd Century B.C.. Originally a fishing and trade village Famagusta was grown by the influx of refugees first from Salamis in 648 then by the Christian settlers after the invasion of the Holy Lands (1291 A.D.). It soon became one of the most important and wealthy cities in the island. At one time (early 14th Century) about 350 churches and many trading posts were built within the area later strengthen with impressive defensive walls by the Venetians. In 1372 The Genoese occupied the island and the City sacking most of its wealth. In 1571 under the long siege by the Turks many buildings were destroyed by the catapults. The British used the stones to build the Suez Canal and the Quays of Port Said. In 1974 the City was again under siege by Greek Cypriots, with 11.000 Turkish Cypriots defending the City until it was ended by the arrival of the Turkish Troops. The important Historical structures worth visiting are; Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (St. Nicholas Cathedral), Othello Tower, Remains of Countless Mediaeval Churches, Salamis, Kings Tombs, St. Barnabas Monastery, The Ruins of Enkomi.
St. Barnabas Monastery
The church and monastery of Saint Barnabas are situated at the western edge of the Salamis necropolis. Information about the personality and work of Saint Barnabas comes from historical sources. Born in Salamis, Saint Barnabas was the son of a Jewish family. He began work with Saint Paul to spread Christianity. As a result of these activities, fellow Jews killed him and his body was hidden in a marshland, later to be dumped into the sea bu night. A number of Barnabas followers who witnessed the incident secretly took the body away and buried it together with the St. Mathews Bible which Barnabas used to carry in a cave under a carob tree to the west of Salamis. After a lapse of 432 years the burial site was revealed to bishop Anthemios in a dream. The Saint Mathews Bible found in the grave was proof that the remains were that of St. Barnabas. The bishop took the remains to Istanbul and presented to the emperor Zeno. Upon this, the emperor declared the autonomy of the Island's Church and donated money for the building of a Monastery at the burial site.The monastery was built in 477 A.D. The building got its present structure in 1756 during Ottoman rule. The place was preserved and protected in its original form and opened to visit. Various icons, wall paintings and other items were displayed in the Church within the Monastery precincts.
Excavations have shown that the history of Salamis goes back to the 11th century B.C.. Archaeologists tend to believe that the first inhabitants of the town came here form Enkomi after the earthquake of 1075 B.C.. Traces of necropolis and a harbour of this early period have been located. When the 'Dark Ages' of the Mediterranean world came to an end in about the 8th century B.C., Salamis appeared on the historical scene as an important trading centre. The necropolis which yielded the Royal Tombs belongs to this period and gives an idea about the richness of the city during the era.
Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque
The building which was constructed between the years 1298-1312 in the Lusignan period is one of the most beautiful Gothic structures of the Meditteranean region. The Lusignan kings would be inaugurated as the King of Cyprus at the St. Sophia Cathedral in Nicosia first, and following this they would be crowned as the King of Jerusalem at the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Famagusta. These ceremonies continued to be held until 1571 when the cathedral was turned into a mosque by the Ottoman Turks.
The arhitecture of the western front of the building has been influenced by the architecture of the Reims Cathedral. It has an unparalleled window with Gothic style tracery. The 16th century Venetian gallery in the courtyard is today used as a reservoir for ablutions. A Venetian insignia can be seem above the circular windows at the entrance. The relief ornamented with animal figures is thought to have been brought from a temple in Salamis. The apsis of the cathedral is in the Eastern style and is composed of three parts as in most Cyprus churches. The windows in the top part have been well preserved. There are two chapels at the side. The cumbez tree in front -a tropical fig tree- is a rare tree in the north of the island.
This citadel was built in the 12nd century during the Lusignan period, to protect the harbour. The Sea Gate on in this side, along with the Land Gate were the two major entrances of walled Famagusta. The citadel was originally surrounded with a moat. In 1492 Venetians transformed it into an artillery stronghold making alterations similar to those at Kyrenia castle. The marble panel above the entrance shows the winged lion of Venice, and includes the name pf Nicolo Foscarini who remodelled the tower. It is thought that when Leonardo Da Vinci visited Cyprus in 1481 he advised the Venetians on the design of the defences of Famagusta.
Enkomi (Alasia) Ruins
The antique city of Enkomi, also known as Alasia, situated close to the present day Enkomi (Tuzla) village, dates back to the 2000s B.C.. The excavations have revealed that the city was under the influence of Egypt first, and Mycenea later, and that it was surrouned with walls, and the dead were buried under the floors of the houses with their death presents. It is observed that the grate plan was applied to the city and that writing was first used here.
The bronze "Horned God Statue" which seems to be under strong Hittite influence, and considered to be a cult statue was found in this district. A lot of things made of bronze and residues of copper indicating the existence of copper workshops have also be en uncovered. Enkomi used to be a harbour town. The region was abandoned never to be used again, when the Pedios River (Kanlidere) flowing by the city filled the harbour with alluvion, the earthquakes affected the place negatively and the Akas started posing a continuous threat after the 12th century.
It is supposed that this cenoteph has been built for the last king of the Salamis, Nicocreon. It is said that Nicocreon prefered to commit suicide with his family and burn the palace rather than surrender against the Ptolemaios army. Generally the structure have the classical ancient Greek architecture characteristics.
Sinan Pasha Mosque
The inscription on the wall indicating that the church was constructed by a Syrian merchant named Simone Nostrano is thought to have been due to misinformation, as it is now known that the church had been built by a Nestorian Christian named Simon. It has survived the 1571 bombardment because of its strong structure. The North entrance with its unequalled masonry is thought to have been transferred from another place. The interior of the building is quite plain; the ceiling resting on pilars with a flat capital. After conquering the island the Ottomans started to use the church as a mosque.