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John Pettitt holding the “Ryder Cup” 1985

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Byzantine Period

THE BYZANTINE PERIOD (330-1191 AD)

In 395 AD the Roman Empire was divided into two parts, with an eastern capital of Byzantium, later Constantinople. The goal was to take Cyprus back into the orbit of the Greek world. However during the Byzantine period catastrophic earthquakes of 332 AD and 342 AD destroyed Salamis, Paphos and other cities. Salamis, now called Constantia, (in honour of the Emperor) was soon rebuilt and it became the new capital of Cyprus but it was never to regain its former splendour.

Cyprus was ruled (both secularly and religiously) by the Antioch in Syria as part of the Eastern Byzantine Empire and this was not a situation that Church of Cyprus was happy with. A campaign for autonomy was started and with the discovery of the remains of St Barnabas in a rock tomb near Salamis with a copy of St Matthew's Gospel was presented to the Byzantine Emperor. In 488 Emperor Zeno granted the Cypriot Church authorization and the archbishop of Cyprus was given three special privileges: to sign with red ink, to wear a purple cloak at Church ceremonies and carry a sceptre instead of a pastoral staff, and these still survive today.

Early Christian monasteries are those of Stavrovouni and Tokhi constructed by St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who according to tradition, on her return from the Holy Lands arrived in Cyprus. During the 11th c. and immediately after, many of the well-known monasteries of Cyprus were built -St John Chrysostomos, Kykkos, Makheras and St Neophytos in the 12th c., while many supremely painted churches appeared such as Asinou, Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis, Panayia tou Araka. The Cypriot churches and monasteries are a superb example of the art and architecture of this period, and nine of the churches in Troodos area are in the world cultural heritage catalogue of UNESCO.

During the three centuries of Arab raids (648-965) Cyprus suffered from attacks, vandalism, burnings with many of its settlements and churches destroyed. The advance of the Seljuk Turks, precursors of the Ottomans, in Asia Minor, had taken over the banner of Islam and the city of Jerusalem from the Arabs and was threatening the Byzantine Empire. For the moment the barrier of the Mediterranean kept the Turks out of Cyprus but they were to be responsible for the next change in the course of Cyprus' history. The first crusade of the 11th century in 1095 was led mostly the knights and princes of Western Europe. They encouraged the Pope to turn Cyprus into a stronghold of constructing the castles of St Hilarion, Bufavento and Kantara. In 1185 Isaac Komninos, a rebel Byzantium prince, declared himself the independent ruler of Cyprus. His terrible rule lasted for seven years and was challenged by Constantinople but was only ended by the king of England, Richard the Lionheart, who landed on the island to join the third crusade.

RICHARD THE LIONHEART and THE TEMPLARS (1191 - 1192)

Isaac's forces quickly rerouted by the English king forced him to flee to the mountains. Richard married Berengaria, the French princess who accompanied him on his voyage in Limassol castle. After the capture and deportation of Isaac, Richard left the island for the Holy Land. His devotion to the crusade was greater than any interest he might have had in Cyprus and within a year of his conquest he sold the island to his fellow Crusaders, the Knights Templar, to raise finds for his army. However the conditions of the sale made the Templars unable to rule, as they did not have the necessary funds to pay Richard after they had paid 4/10 of the price he asked. To raise the money the taxed the Cypriot people who rebelled and were cruelly crushed by the Templars.

But they realised that they would not be able to hold the island and so returned it Richard who did not repay their down payment and resold the island to another crusader ally: Guy de Lusignan.

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