The island nation of Cyprus is at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Africa, and Asia. It’s the bullseye between Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and the Middle East – not the quietest neighborhood on the planet. The island’s location, its relatively small size, and inability to defend itself against bigger foes has made it a “revolving door” for invaders.
Since the arrival of the Greek Mycenaeans 3500 years ago, wave after wave of conquerers have left their mark. The list of cultures that ruled Cyprus is impressive by any standard: Romans, Phoenicians, Assyrians, English (Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders), Knights Templar, French Nobility from Jerusalem, Venetians, Ottomans, the British, and most recently, the Turks have made a bid.
Larnaca, on the southeastern coast of Cyprus, has numerous historic buildings that reflect the cultural gumbo these conquerors left behind.
Constructed in the 9th century as a burial site for Lazarus, the Byzantine Church of St. Lazarus has an interesting history. According to Christian scriptures, Lazarus was brought back to life by Jesus; he was later expelled from Judea, and then sailed to Cyprus. Amazingly, he lived in Larnaca for 30 years before dying (again), and being buried here for the final time.
This beautiful minaret is part of the Kebir Mosque, the first Ottoman mosque in Cyprus. In the 13th century, the building started life as a Catholic Church, but Muslims converted it to a mosque in the 18th century. Stone buildings are difficult and expensive to construct, and in a nod to practicality, religious builders had no problems with a bit of creative recycling.
This week we’re launching our “Strolling Through Modern-Day Cyprus Series” – revisiting one of the fascinating stops on our Round-the-World trip.