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                               Places to Visit in Kyrenia

Cepheus from Arcadia is believed to be the founder of the town of Kyrenia. A military leader, he arrived at the north coast of Cyprus bringing with him many settlers from various towns in Achaea.

The Bellapais Abbey:

Bellapais Monastery The Bellapais Abbey is one of the unparalleled samples of Gothic Art.  Bellapais Monastery’s name today derives from the French "Abbaye de la paix", which means "The Peace Monastery". Bellapais Monastery situated on the flanks of the Five-finger (Kyrenia) Mountains.
The first settlers of the Bellapais Monastery were the priests of the Augustinian order who had migrated from Jerusalem. The first monastery building was constructed between the years 1198-1205. Most sections of the building which can be seen today were built by the French King Hugh III between the years 1267-1284. The pavilions around the courtyard and the refectory were constructed during the reign of King Hugh IV (1324-1359). After Cyprus was conquered by the Ottomans, the monastery was given to the Greek Orthodox Church. The church next to the courtyard is the part which is in the best condition.                     
The Italian frescoes on the front walls were made in the 15th century. The two marble tombs in the courtyard were used as washbasins by the priests for some time. On the door behind the tombs the insignia of the Jerusalem, Lusignan, and Cyprus Kingdoms are fixed. The refectory of the monastery is also an example of unequalled Gothic Art. The rooms to the east of the courtyard in the middle belonged to the priests. The column in the middle of the council chamber is thought to have belonged to the early Byzantine Church. The dormitories of the priests and the chamber of accounts are on the upper floor.

The Buffavento Castle:
Bufavento CastleBuffavento Castle is also known as The Hundred Houses of Rigaina). The château was built merely for a watch tower and perhaps a prison, along with St. Hilarion and Kantara, as a part of the defensive chain against the Arab raids - the accommodation is of a limited extent. Like the other two castles it guarded an important pass through the mountains and it had signal connections with the other two strongholds. The Buffavento Castle is on a hill top 950 metres above sea level overlooking both, Nicosia and Kyrenia... 

When Richard the Lion Heart conquered Cyprus in 1191, the Byzantine despot king of the island Isaac Comnenus is said to have fled to Buffavento. In 1311, the Castle of Buffavento became the prison ('Château du Lion') of two Lusignan Princes, Chamerin, brother of the King and Constable of the Kingdom, and Lord Balian de Ibelin, Prince of Galilee, who were regarded as the supporters of the usurping Prince of Tyre, and as traitors to the King Henry II. In the Venetian period the Buffavento Castle was neglected, as castles on the coastline had emerged as being of greater use for the defence of Cyprus. The castle consists of two sections: the lower castle and the higher section. The lower castle has an arched entrance. The rooms opposite the entrance were used for storing provisions and as dormitories. There is a cistern under the rooms. The red brick workmanship on the arches of gates and rooms is of the Byzantine style. Little has remained of the church that used to be here. ‘Buffavento’ means ‘Insubordinate to the Wind’. The Troodos Mountains and beautiful scenery is visible from the castle

The Folk Arts Museum:

Folks Art MuseumAn 18th century house on the Kyrenia harbour is now used as a museum. The main entrance of the Folk Art Museum is from the promenade in the old harbour of Kyrenia.

Formally a granary, it was donated to the Antiques Department by Lady Loch. The museum is a reconstruction of a typical Cypriot house displaying bridal costumes and a variety of needlework. On the ground floor there are olive presses, a primitive plow, a loom, jugs, and a flail. On the upper floor there are samples of traditional handicraft: crochet, bed covers and table cloths, woollen socks, chests with carving, wedding-dresses and wardrobes are some of the things exhibited 

The Hz. Omer Tomb:

Hz Omer TombThe tombs and the small mosque are situated 5km east of Kyrenia. The tombs were constructed by the Ottomans for commander Omer and his companions who died in Cyprus during the Arab raids in the 7th century during the rule of Muaviye - the Omayyad Caliph.

Commander Omer and his companions from the Muawiya army were killed and buried in the cave. After the Ottoman conquest, the bodies were exhumed and interred again. In typical Cypriot fashion, the dervish convent which grew around the tombs was honoured by both Orthodox and Muslim communities before 1974. The interior of the convent is walled with tapestries of Mecca, gaudy rugs in various shapes and sizes, and you will find books in piles referring mostly to the tomb or the Koran.

The Icon Museum:
Kyrenia Icon MuseumThe former Arkhangelos Church is being used as an icon museum to exhibit the icons collected from Kyrenia and the vicinity. The church was built in 1860. A belfry, added to it twenty five years later can be viewed from all around Kyrenia. The Icon Museum encompasses a range of icons displaying the history of Kyrenia, and the surrounding areas. The church originally was desiccated to the archangel Michael. Inside the church you can three levels filled with fascinating exhibits and icons, some dating as back as to the 17th Century. The religious artwork in the Icon Museum is skilled and finely crafted, and is a great choice for those who want to explore art and history, as well as the fascinating architecture of the church itself.

Kyrenia Castle:
Kyrenia CastleThe castle is thought to have been constructed to protect the town against the Arab raids in the 7th century. Like the Kantara Castle, Kyrenia Castle played an important role in the Lusignan period and has undergone many restorations during this period. The castle is first mentioned in ancient sources in the year 1191 A.D. when King Richard the Lion Heart defeated Isaac Comneus on this way to the Crusades and conquered Cyprus.

Explorations carried out date the Kyrenia Castle as far back as 111-11 B.C. to the Early Roman Period, when the fortifications were constructed with armoured knights and archers in mind. But so far it has not been possible to establish an exact date of construction of the castle. It is likely that the main building of the Kyrenia castle was built during the Byzantine period in the 7th Century A.D. The castle then had additions made to it during the Lusignan and Venetian period. It is known that a large portion of the present castle was built by King John d’Ibelin during 1208-1211 A.D. and that existing fortifications of the Early Roman period were also made use of. The castle received great damage as a result of Venetian attacks in 1373 A.D. When the Venetians took control of the Kyrenia castle in 1489, they reconstructed the fortifications taking the Ottoman artillery into consideration. Following the fall of Nicosia in 1570 A.D., the Venetians surrendered the castle to the Ottomans. The entrance to the castle is via a bridge built over a wide ditch. This ditch was full of water until the 14 hundreds. The Lusignan insignia of three lions on the vault of the inner gate has been brought here from another building. Inside the castle there is a Byzantine church (St. George) thought to have been constructed in the 11th Century. The tomb of the Ottoman Admiral, Sadik Pasha the Algerian, who was killed during the conquest of Cyprus by the Ottomans in 1570 is also in this castle.

Shipwreck Museum - Kyrenia:
ShipwreckThe ship exhibited in the shipwreck museum inside Kyrenia Castle is claimed to be the oldest shipwreck recovered from the seas in the word so far. It belongs to the period of the Hellenistic kingdoms founded after the death of Alexander the Great around 300 B.C. 

It was first noticed by a sponge diver at a depth of 3 metres and was brought out by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. Tests applied to almond remains on the ship point to the year 288 B.C.; tests applied to its timber show it is from 389 B.C. This indicates that the ship was about eighty years old when it sank. Evidently, this vessel sank less than a mile from the anchorage of Kyrenia in open waters, and is said to have sunk in rough seas over two thousand years ago. The 15-metre body of the ship is made of Jerusalem pine. It is covered with a protective film presumably as a precaution against the Mediterranean shipworm. The amphoras found on the ship which number around 400 are thought to have been loaded in Rhodes. Besides these, 29 basalt mill stones have been found. It is likely to tell from the remains found on the ship that it did business on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts before setting sail for Cyprus and that the crew’s main supply of food was almonds.

The Sourp Magar Monastery:
Sourp  Magar MonasteryThe Sourp Magar Monastery was first founded as a Coptic monastery around 1000 A.D. as a Coptic (Egyptian Christian) Monastery, and was dedicated to the Egyptian hermit St. Makarios of Alexandria (309-404 A.D.). It is also referred to as the monastery of the Virgin Mary. Its location is being at the edge of the cliff and the beginning of a deep ravine is very picturesque.

The Sourp Magar monastery was passed on to the Armenians at the beginning of the 15th century, and it became a favoured pilgrimage and rest point for many Armenian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. It was also used as a summer resort by the Armenians living in Nicosia. The remains date back to the 19th century. A panel with Armenian writing has been found on its walls reflecting the culture and dwelling of the Armenian community in Northern Cyprus. The monastery was run by monks until the early 1900s and was a school for orphans. The monastery remained a resting place for pilgrims until 1974.  

 The St. Hilarion Castle:

St.Hilarion CastleSt. Hilarion Castle was built like the Buffavento and the Kantara Castles as part of an early-warning system to defend the island against the Arab raids. According to a legend, the castle is said to be named after a holy man who lived in the castle for the last years of his life and is said to be buried there in the 8th Century. A monastery and a church were founded on his grave and later a monastery was built around it. In the 10th century, a castle was erected around the church and monastery.

The first references to the castle are found in the 1191 records. For some time it was of strategic importance, but later it became the summer resort of the Lusignan nobility. Especially after the invention of gunpowder and firearms, the importance of defending the coastline increased, and St. Hilarion Castle lost its functionality and importance like the Kantara and the Buffavento castles. The castle has three parts. The parapets for the defence of the main entrance were fortified by the Byzantines in the 11th century. The lower section of the castle was the dwelling of the soldiers and horses. The middle section contained the royal palace, the kitchen, the church and a big cistern. At the entrance to the castle in the upper section there is a Lusignan Gat with a  courtyard in the middle. The nobility used to live in the Eastern section, the kitchen and the other rooms for daily use were in the western section. The Prince John Tower is to find at the top of the castle. The panoramic view through the Queen’s window (a window carved in the Gothic style) on the second floor of the royal apartments is superb.

Vrysi (Catalkoy):
VrysiVrysi is a settlement dating to the Neolithic Period. The excavations have revealed that the settlers of this region came to Cyprus from a district in Anatolia called Kilikya between 4000-3000 B.C. The economy of the settlement was dependent on agriculture. The earthenware bowls are handmade. The houses are connected to each other by narrow tunnels. The walls are made of stone and wet clay. The inner walls are plastered with wet clay. The roofs are made of reeds and covered with mud and wet clay. Rush mats were used on the floor. Following the earthquake around the year 3000 B.C. the people of Vrysi abandoned it and settled somewhere else.


Karmi Necropolis:
Tombs from the Middle Bronze Age dating between 1900 and 1800 B.C. have been discovered close to Karmi Village. The site gives a good picture of the level of commercial activities with the nearby countries in the Bronze Age....

Room shaped tombs have been discovered in the archaeological excavations close to the Karmi village dating between 1900 and 1800 B.C.  A carving of a human image in the corridors in Tomb 6 is the oldest effigy found in Cyprus so far. The carving in the Karmi-Palealona Tomb 6 is thought to be a symbol of the Goddess of Fertility. In one tomb, a man was buried along with blue beads from Egypt and ‘Kamares’ ware bowls produced by the Minoan civilization on Crete. He may have been a sailor on the trade routes between North Cyprus and Syria, and brought back the items as souvenirs from his travels. Blue beads are thought to have been given as gifts for the dead. This site demonstrates the level of commercial activities with the neighbouring countries in the Bronze Age

kirsokavaKirsokava is located between the old and new harbour in Kyrenia, but is only occasionally open to public. Kirsokava is a cape that was used by the Romans 2000 years ago as a cemetery and then as an excavation site for limestone.  During the Byzantine rule Christians had settled in the Roman Tombs and in these quarries...Thought to have taken its name from the fact that gold was mined in the area (gold translates as ‘chrysos’), the Kirsokava (Chrysokava) promontory was used in the Roman times as a cemetery and then became a quarry for limestone. These lime stones were transported by boats and were used to build Kyrenia Castle and the Harbour. In fact, the Roman, Byzantine, Lusignan and Venetian castles were all built with the stones from these quarries.  The ancient route can still be seen today, a wide sweeping road cut into the rocks in the bay beyond.
Early Christians who have settled in the quarry during the Byzantine period carved an altar into the cliff face. Later Christians are thought to have enlarged an old stone tomb to build the Byzantine church of Agia Mavra. From the stone carvings and remnants of wall paintings, it is believed to date around the 10th Century. These paintings were partially resorted before 1974.

Lambousa Lambousa, which translates as ‘the shining one’’ was once a prosperous area, located to west of the northern coast of Cyprus. The first settlers of Lambousa came from Greece in the 13th century B.C.; the region came under Phoenician control in the 8th century B.C. During the Roman and the Byzantine periods the region enjoyed great prosperity...Lambousa can be reached by walking along the Cyprus coast from Mare Monte Beach in Lapta. During the Roman era, civilian architectural buildings like a theatre and a gymnasium were constructed and the area became a prosperous seaport for the town of Lapta. Experiencing continual Arab raids, Lambousa’s period of prosperity ended in the 13th Century, as Lambousa was abandoned by its inhabitants. Among the significant remnants are the walls, the rock tombs and the fish pools. The fish pools were carved in the Roman period; they contain canals for the clean water to flow in and for the dirty and warm water to flow out. Most of the findings of Lambousa include many valuable items like plates and spoons that were brought to daylight during a two-stage excavation activity in the 20th Century. Most of these findings are being exhibited in the museums of foreign cities like London and New York. These treasures are thought to have been hidden underground during the attacks of the Arab pirates. As most items bear the Empire seal, they are understood to have been produced between the years 627-630. 

Lapta (Lapithos):
lapithos Because of the frequency of the Arab raids in the 13th Century, the inhabitants of Lambousa-the ancient coast town just below Lapta Village, moved their settlement to the skirts of the mountain and established the town of Lapta of the present day. The settlement in Lapta developed even further during the Lusignan period. In addition to Lapta, the excavations in the region reveal clues of settlements belonging to the Chalcolithic period, and chamber tombs belonging to the Iron Age. 

Lapta was founded by the inhabitants of Lambousa-the ancient coast town just below Lapta Village, fleeing raiding pirates. Today Lapta is a very popular, beautiful mountain village located on the slopes of the Five Finger Mountain Range of Kyrenia. Lapta’s location is unquestionably magnificent, with its breathtaking views over the blue Mediterranean North Coast of Cyprus.  The atmosphere in Lapta is truly relaxed with fresh water springs running through the village, supplying the surrounding areas with plenty of water. The region is covered with an array of citrus groves, pine trees, and wild flowers, including scores of orchids unique to the area. Lapta as well has one of the Cyprus’ most beautiful stone mosques as the main attraction. Lapta is also famous for its local arts and crafts, including pottery, silk and wooden chests, which can be bought in the village in small shops. Lapta Village is now a mixture of Turkish and Europeans with plenty bars and restaurants.

The Antiphonitis Church:

Antiphınitis Church The church is located 8km south of Esentepe, one of the villages in the eastern Kyrenia region.  The church used to be part of an old and important monastery. Its architectural style is not common in Cyprus and finest of its kind in Cyprus.

Antiphonitis church was built in the 7th Century during the Byzantine period and is thought to be build by local artists due to its unusual architectural style. Antiphonitis church is known to be the centre of an influential monastery. Its dome is placed on eight round columns which form an irregular octagon. The part called as bema and the rest of the church were tried to be separated by keeping two of the columns separated from the walls. Considering its features this building is one of the finest of its kind in Cyprus which remained till today. The narthex part with barrel vaults on the west and the cloister arrangements on the south were added by the Lusignans in 14th or 15th centuries. Some of the frescoes that have survived are original; some were made in the 15th century. In the original frescoes, Mary is portrayed between the Archangel Gabriel and Mikhail, holding a child on her chest. In some frescoes, Gabriel, St. Anthony and the baptizing scene, St. Eudoksia and St. Paul are portrayed. In the painting on the ceiling which depicts the preparation of the throne, Christ is portrayed in a medallion circled with angels, with Mary on one side, John the Baptist on the other. The twelve apostles and the prophets are also present. Antiphonitis means "Replying Christ”


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