Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kollossi Castle, Cyprus

Kolossi Castle is a stronghold a few kilometers outside the city of Limassol on the island of Cyprus. It held great strategic importance and contained production of sugar, one of Cyprus' main exports in the Middle Ages. The original castle was possibly built in 1210 by Frankish military when the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh III to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers) (see also Commandaria), and the present castle was built in 1454 by the Hospitallers. Dwellers in the castle include Richard I of England,the Templars and the already mentioned Hospitallers. (from Wikipedia)

The keep that you see in the above picture is very picturesque, albeit rather stark. All the guidebooks claim that this particular keep was built by the Knights of St. John, yet I could not find any "Maltese" crosses, only "Templar" crosses.
As Wiki says, this is really two castles, one inside the other. The outside one was clearly built by the Templars (Richard Lionheart sold the entire Island of Cyprus to the Templars in exchange for cash and services rendered. How King Dick got it is a rattlin' good story in its own right, I will likely post that story along with some pics of Limassol castle in a few weeks. (Stay tuned...)

The original castle was bigger, and the Lusignans kept the outer walls, wrecked as they were after what three centuries of keeping pirates on the outside, and just built a keep inside the original walls. Above you can see the original entrance to the 11th century castle. And HAS been extensively restored, albeit that restoration was by the French around the time of Columbus. Arches maintain their integrity really well, sometimes all that remains of a castle feature are the arches... The East gate above is a drawbridge, a footbridge actually, tall enough to take a man leading a horse, one at a time. The railings are about as high as you would expect them to be, they are about waist high on me. (helps with scale when nobody is in the picture...) Features which are original include the hole underneath the bridge which is now only a couple of feet deep, but was originally MUCH deeper. The wall is an extension of the guardhouse, and if you go in through the above arched opening, you will be facing fire from above and from two sides. This little killing ground is are in it before you realize it. There would have been a gatehouse above the arch with murder holes in the floor for sure. The barred window in the picture below communicated into the gatehouse, but was impassable to people.

To the right was another guardhouse, a stubby tower which overlooked the drawbridge entrance to the first ward....that tower is now gone, probably to provide stone for the big keep in back, and now only a a great cyprus tree grows there.

Below....This is a view of the same wall, but the camera just moved to the south corner. You can see the thick original wall, the barred window, and the cyprus tree. To the lower right is the main cistern to the property...water was brought in by an arched aqueduct from way up in the hills. This water was only for the operations (which involved pressing olives and grapes) which helped this heap pay for itself, and no doubt provided something fresher than the muddy gunk sitting at the bottom of the well inside.

If for some reason, you were persistant enough to fight your way through the first ward, you now had to make your way down past the side of the keep, down those stairs and through a small doorway (just off camera to the left) defended from above on both sides. That would put you into the second ward, right smack in the middle of which is a very exposed stairway which leads all the way up to, you guessed it...the second drawbridge, seen below at the upper left. There is a postern gate at ground level which looks like it can be blocked up pretty quickly...but you need a postern gate to deliver supplies.

The second ward is a bit of a maze...old works, combined with new works. No doubt craftsmen and pig sellers and such were happy to make this second ward into a real mess of blind alleys and tripping hazards. Beats keeping a moat any day! Below is a pic of some of the stuff...a lot of which is actually just uncovered.

One stairway. Looks like either all the Lusignans were left handed, or maybe the idea of a spiral stairway being built to favor defenders is just that...a myth. I consider myself a bit of a swordsman, and I would have had a heck of a time fighting either up or down.

This is a pepper tree. I don't know what kind of peppers it creates. I wonder if it is Mediterranian black pepper, the King of Spices? I know...unlikely. Just as unlikely is that it is a new world plant a "pink peppercorn" tree. The leaves seem to be about the same as I remember. This one is very old, its limbs being propped up by posts.

On the east wall there are Lusignan coats of arms. Anybody care to research them for me?

The top floor has windows that close against the elements. They are pretty plain, the windows all have benches in them however so that you can enjoy the breeze, and discuss momentous thing. The little room to the right is only on the top story, there is one on each side, and I believe they exist as communication the east is Limassol castle (on the horizon) and to the west is a guard tower on the cliffs overlooking the south shore.
Above is a random picture taken on the road leading up to the castle which was the headquarters of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem during the closing days of the 12th century.

ip-location map zoom

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