The city of Famagusta is one of the finest examples of mediaeval architecture in the eastern Mediterranean and, in its present state of preservation, is equal to that of the old cities of Carcassone and Ragusa (Dubrovnik). One full day spent in Famagusta will reveal the history of Cyprus in a nutshell.
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. Some historians declare that it was founded by King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt in 285 B.C.
It is believed that the city occupies the site of ancient town of Arsinoë. Famagusta prospered through the destruction of the neighbouring Salamis, the former capital of the island.
By the year 1300 A.D. the town was one of the principal markets of the Eastern Mediterranean, the rendezvous place of rich merchants and the headquarters of many Christian religious orders as revealed by numerous churches of various denominations still to be seen in the town today. This was the time of the Crusades and when the rich Lusignan dynasty ruled Cyprus. Lusignans fortified the town, and in the thirteenth century built the beautiful Cathedral of St. Nicholas, transformed since then into a mosque.
Famagusta was the seat of a Latin diocese from the twelfth century and had residential bishops till the end of the sixteenth. The city is protected by ramparts which encircle the town and the citadel castle guarding the harbour, the best in Cyprus. This citadel or Othello’s tower is the first main focus of attention for visitors.
The period 1300 to 1400 is known as the golden age of Famagusta and was regarded as such by visiting merchants, who brought western Europe the tales of fabulous wealth in the various places.
Famagusta of today is a vibrant youthful university city. This buzz is evident in the city that offers comfortable and relaxing destination for switching off, enjoying the history and sights.