Venetian Period

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To understand the causes which led to the occupation of Cyprus by Venice, it is necessary to explain in short words what Venice meant at that time. The growing wealth of Venice attracted the pirates of Dalmatia and forced her to arm her vessels in self-defense. In the eleventh century, when the crusades began, the Venetians had crushed the Dalmatians and had become supreme in the Adriatic. Venice now commanded the sea route to the Holy Land and could supply the transport required by the crusaders. From this she took large profits and further trading rights. After the Third Crusade, Venice had trading settlements in Tyre, Sidon, and other cities of the Levant. After the Fourth Crusade, she received more than half of the Eastern Roman Empire. Her fleets now commanded the Adriatic, the Aegean, and the Black Sea. She was established in the seaports of Syria and held the trade routes between Europe and the East. She was thus raised to the position of a European Power. In the fifth century Venice expanded to the mainland in order to acquire a foodsupplying area and also to gain a duty-free outlet to Europe for her merchandise. This led her into conflict with the European Powers who were jealous of her growing strength and, when in 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, Venice was left to fight the Turks single-handed. According to the U.S. Library of Congress, it was said that after years of enduring rapacious forays by neighboring states, the weakened Kingdom of Cyprus was forced to turn to its ally Venice to save itself from being dismembered. In 1468, by virtue of a marriage between James II and Caterina Cornaro, daughter of a Venetian noble family, the royal house of Cyprus was formally linked with Venice. James died in 1473, and the

island came under Venetian control. Caterina reigned as a figurehead until 1489, when Venice formally annexed Cyprus and ended the 300-year Lusignan epoch. For ordinary Cypriots, the change from Lusignan to Venetian rule was hardly noticeable. The Venetians were as oppressive as their predecessors, and aimed to profit as much as possible from their new acquisition. One difference was that the wealth that had been kept on the island by the Frankish rulers was taken to Venice--Cyprus was only one outpost of the far-flung Venetian commercial empire. During the long Lusignan period and the eighty-two years of Venetian control, foreign rulers unquestionably changed the Cypriot way of life, but it was the Cypriot peasant with his Greek religion and Greek culture who withstood all adversity. Throughout the period, almost three centuries, there were two distinct societies, one foreign and one native. The first society consisted primarily of Frankish nobles and Italian merchants with their families and followers. The second society, the majority of the population, consisted of Greek Cypriot laborers. Each of these societies had its own culture, language, and religion. Although a decided effort was made to supplant native customs and beliefs, the effort failed. The acquisition of Cyprus marks the extreme limit of Venetian expansion in the Levant. The acquisition of Cyprus by Venice was prompted by the value of the island as a base for her fleets in the eastern Mediterranean and as a trading centre for the Levant. The policy of Venice was directed to making the island as secure as possible, since it was clear that it formed a vulnerable outpost in a hostile area.

Based on various research papers, we aim to focus on the aspects of the Venetian rule over Cyprus, through analysis of the changes in lifestyle, architecture and system as a whole and by separating each case, therefore, by presenting each main city/region in which the Venetian power had more impact, respectively Famagusta, Lefkosia and Kyrenia. The city of Famagusta (Wood model of Famagusta before 1555-mislabled Maina in Morea, the Naval Museum, Venice, photo by Anna Basso) is one of the finest examples of mediaeval architecture in the eastern Mediterranean. Much of the history of the town is obscure as there are no written records and our only source of material is from travellers' accounts of merchants passing through: The 29 about two houres before day, we alighted at Famagusta, and after we were refreshed we went to see the towne. This is a very faire strong holde, and the strongest and greatest in the Iland. The walles are faire and new, and strongly rampired with foure principall bulwarkes, and betweene them turrions, responding to one another, these walles did the Venetians make. (John Locke, English pilgrim, 1553) After 1400, rival factions of Genoese and Venetian merchants settled there. The Genoese caused much strife until finally the Venetians took command of all Cyprus and transferred the capital from Nicosia to Famagusta in 1489. The Venetians were in command for 82 years and it was from Famagusta that the whole island was governed. As the defense of the island was to provide a secure base for naval action and for maritime trade, the first object of the Venetians was the fortification of Famagusta, which was undertaken by the two earliest governors, Nicolo Foscarini and Nicolo Priuli.

In the Venetian period, the magnificence and glory of Famagusta faded still further as a result of the neglect of the island as a whole. The walls and moats were rebuilt in accordance with prevailing conditions, but as a protected port town with its land and sea gates providing entrance into its inner town, Famagusta remained in essence a military base. While Famagustas military architecture was functional in an obvious and utilitarian way, the management of the civic space of the central square employed more refined visual and cultural operations. Famagustas main square is seen as a point around which the built environment was decisively and deftly manipulated to assert Venices ownership, to naturalize the urban surroundings for Venetians, and to acculturate the local population. This process of acculturation, however, while strongly motivated by a desire to import and impose the architectural signifiers of Venetian style and culturethus also positioning Venice as center, origin and mother cityis also marked by a particularly resourceful re-assignation of artifacts from local Greco-Roman culture. As in Venice itself, the Venetians use of antique spolia in Famagusta is deployed to propagate a myth of imperial greatness and Venices inheritance of the mantles of the earlier Greek, Roman, and Byzantine empires. The examples of the strategic uses of spolia in Famagusta illustrates, as Patricia Fortini Brown(Art and Life in Renaissance Venice) has put it, the... Venetian ability to seize opportunity when unexpected treasures came to hand

We suggest that one of the primary objectives of the modifications of the built environment of Famagustas main square was to serve public rituals. Given the centrality of processions and public rituals in Venetian culture, it is not surprising that such practices would have been exported and modified in various colonial contexts. While the military projects in Famagusta were the most monumental, the architectural projects around the main square of the city were the more subtle expressions of venezianit. Two Venetian monuments from the towns main square, the twin columns and the triple arch gateway to the Venetian palace, are the most visible elements of the Venetians manipulation of the institutional and social heart of the city. The bases of the twin columns, and their Doric/Tuscan capitals, are of white marble and, set against the grey granite of the columns. These monolithic columns were set up in the square near St. Nicholas cathedral and were counterparts to the famous columns at Venices principal waterfront, which carried aloft the statues of St. Theodore and the lion of St. Mark, two protectors of the city (to be found at the entrances of both the Othello Tower and the Sea Gate). The portrayal of the lion is in many ways standard, but there was a particular variation on the theme, which is represented here: the forepaws are on the land and the rear paws are in the sea, indicating the dual terrestrial and maritime aspects of Venices empire, a depiction all the more relevant after Venices war with the League of Cambrai, 1508 1516. Othellos Citadel was built in order to protect Famagusta's harbor, and was originally the main entrance to the town. When the Venetians arrived, they greatly strengthened the town's defenses, incorporating the citadel into the main town walls. It consists of towers with corridors leading to artillery chambers. In times of war they would

have allowed soldiers to move quickly from one part of the castle to another. In more peaceful times they would have been used to store things that needed to be kept cool, safe and secure. At the close of the 15th century, Venice was a formidable maritime power controlling a major part of trade between Europe and the Near East. This was mainly (although, not exclusively) due to its possession of a large number of territories along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, in southern Greece, and even within Ottoman controlled Constantinople. However, over time, Cyprus surpassed Crete as Venices largest overseas colony, with Famagusta providing a much-needed harbor for the Venetian fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. Venice soon recognized the dual imperative of reviving the islands economy while improving its defenses against the inevitable aggression of competitors. Indeed, Famagustas medieval fortifications were in need of repairs and updating. While city walls were made stronger and thicker, the Mantinengo Citadel and Land Gate are built then. Also, to prevent, rebuff the attack came by the Ottomans and to strengthen the defense of the city, a 46 meters drain(fig.9) is filled with water outside of the city walls. Gunpowder had been introduced in Europe in the intervening years, and the old walls were no match for cannon and artillery. Thus commenced the seemingly overwhelming task of modernization; it is though that no less than twenty Renaissance military architects were brought in for the job. Rumor has it that even Leonardo Da Vinci may have lent his expertise.

Venetians inherited an island that had suffered dramatic declines in population, mostly because of recurring plagues. It is well documented that Venice made great efforts to repopulate the island, which had been devastated not only by the Black Death of 1348, but also by recurrent outbreaks of the plague in the 15th century. Population growth became a first order of business so that the islands agricultural and mineral resources (sugar, grain and salt) could be profitably developed and exploited. In 1491 the envoys of Famagusta, describing the town as very poor and desolate, made the Senate to try to increase the towns population by encouraging immigration. Famagusta was infamous for its unhealthy air and the Venetians moved quickly to improve the living environment, draining the swamps north of the city, and instigating a policy of quarantine and a new system . These practical measures for increasing the labor force and improving sanitation, which were largely successful, were complemented by the Venetians architectural patronage, which sought to recreate a secure and ordered Venice center in its new colonial holding. As in other Venetian ports beyond Venice, Famagustas walls integrate both terrestrial and marine defensive components, thus adding to their complexity and sophistication. Camille Enlart was among the first to examine them as part of his monumental survey Gothic Art and the Renaissance in Cyprus of 1899.

The Venetian walls and fortifications that surround the historic town are a superlative example of Renaissance military architecture. They were built between 1495-1564, incorporating the existing medieval Lusignan walls and towers, which were dramatically reduced in height, remodeled and strengthened. The great bastion of the

Land Gate( Limassol Gate) was one of two original entrances to the walled city. The other, the Sea Gate to the northeast, offers access from the port. It is protected by the impressive ravelin, inside which is a labyrinth of ramps, steps and rooms. One visitor, Jacques le Saige, who arrived in Famagusta in 1518, about thirty years after the Venetians had taken over, not only admired the walls but noted that they were just recently refurbished: We were greatly astonished to see so great a city. For vessels cannot come nigh but for reason of the rocks, and the walls too are terribly thick, and there are fosses lined with masonry along the town. Hence you might gather that one might attack it from without and yet be unable to injure that city The walls of Famagosse are freshly repaired, and there is a very grand boulevard. In brief it is an impregnable city.

The Venetians immediately began converting the city from a French medieval one to an Italian renaissance one. They moved the capital of Cyprus from Nicosia to Famagusta, and around 1550 built the palace we see today on the ruins of a 13th century Lusignan one(fig.11-12). It then became the official residence of the acting Venetian governor -- or Palazzo del Provveditore -- beginning in 1489. In the 16th century, the palace was substantially remodeled, its Gothic features being replaced with the simple and solid forms of the Italian Renaissance. Inside the courtyard are numerous cannon balls and pieces of a large granite column. The architectural remnants were taken from Salamis.

While the triple gateway formed the official face of the Palazzo del Proveditore, it is not known what survived of the medieval Lusignan palace during the mid-sixteenth century. What is known, however, is that the Venetians made substantial additions at the west end of the complex in the form of a large cortile surrounded by a simple high wall in the south, storerooms and an armory in the north, and a multi-storied residential block on the west side that had a large banqueting hall, probably on the piano nobile. If Venice was, as Patricia Fortini Brown has put it, an empire of fragments, we find a compelling aggregation of such fragmentsliteral, figurative, and socialin Famagusta, providing key pieces in the puzzle of what Venice was, an intriguing evidence about how Venice fashioned its empire and how that same empire refashioned Venice. The earliest historical evidence found and concern within the walls of Nicosia, was in 1567, when the Venetians commissioned the Italian military engineers, Giulio Savorgnano and Franscesco Barbaro, to design new fortifications for the city of Nicosia, in order to protect the inhabitants from imminent Ottoman attack, Nicosia being also at that time the seat of the Venetian Governor. The new Venetian walls, with 11 bastions replaced the old-style medieval fortifications which engineers deemed inadequate to defend the cit...