OTHELLO TOWER AND CITADEL
Above the gateway is a marble slab on which sculptured the badge of Venice, a winged lion, so frequently seen in other parts of Cyprus such as inKyrenia Castle, Nicosia, and Bellapais Abbey. Inscription on the marble reads `Nicolo Foscarini, the Venetian Captain’, together with the Venetian lion of St. Mark.
An aerial view would show the shell of the medieval castle inside the Venetian Walls and an imaginary sketch of this is shown here. As a result of the inventions of gunpowder and cannon, the Venetians altered the castles in order to suit the needs of their artillery. Usually they did not destroy the old walls, they were far too thick, but the old square towers were replaced with round ones.
It should be obvious that a rectangular tower could easily have its corners knocked off by gunfire. Wherever the old walls were preserved, they were pierced by gunports. On entering the courtyard of the citadel there are some interesting old cannon lying on the ground. One of them is made of bronze and is in excellent condition after being out in the wind and rain for 400 years. It is Spanish, and this kind of alloy metal was much favored by the Spaniards in their great galleons. Cannon were fired by a red hot poker inserted into a hole at one end, but sometimes, owing to faulty methods of casting, guns exploded and then there was a nasty accident. The Turkish cannon had iron rings along the muzzle and can be seen in the courtyard. There are some cannon balls lying about and most are of cast iron.
Inside the Walls is the Great Hall, and with the large kitchen at one end, it is presumed that this was the refectory or dining hall. It dates from about 1300 and is massively constructed with a vaulted roof supported by tall Gothic arches. Windows were usually very small for defence purposes and no glass was used, pieces of cloth or carpets kept out wind and rain. However, in those times it could be a quite comfortable place with fine tapestries on the wall and huge fires blazing away at one end, where the whole carcass of a moufflon could be roasted. Not faroutside the town there is vast interior plain of Cyprus known as the Mesarya and here the nobles were hunting.
Steps lead up to the embattlements where there is a fine view of both ancient and modern harbours. Modern ships still use the same harbour entrance as it was in the golden age of Famagusta, 1300 to 1400 A.D. In those times harbours were defended by a huge iron chain slung across the water, and just by the entrance, and the opposite the Citadel, can be seen a clump of rocks on a promontory where there was the chain tower. The chain was lowered into the water when enemy ships were in the offing. The other harbour in Northern Cyprus, Kyrenia, was also defended by chain and there the chain tower still stands in the middle of the harbour.
Among the sites that dated to many eras, one of the most important sites to visit in famagusta is the medieval fortress or citadel built by the Lusignans.
The Lusignan fortress that had surrounded the city until 1489 had been reinforced by a Venetian expert in 1550’s in order to defend the island against the Ottoman attacks during the Venetian rule.
The Othello Tower, that is one the towers among the fortress, was built in the 12th C by the Lusignans to defend the port.
The tower had been surrounded by a ditch. The sea entrance that it protects was one of the two main entrances together with the land entrance to the city. It is observed that the Venetians had converted this medieval castle into an artillery barricade. The name of the Captain Nicolo Foscarini who is the person who had converted the tower to a barricade is written on the entrance to the fortress under the relief of the Venetian emblem of Saint Marks’s Lion with Wings. It is also said that Leonardo da Vinci had given advises to the Venetians regarding the defense of the city while he was in Cyprus in 1481. The fortress consists of towers and corridors that ends with artillery barricades. The kitchen and the sleeping quarter next to the large courtyard date to the Lusignans. Some of the cannons that stands in the courtyard are made by the Ottomans and some are made by the Spanish. The iron balls belong to the cannons and the stone round shots belong to the slingshots. The present name of the fortress is being used since the English colony.
A chapter of Sheakespeare’s famous tragedy takes place in a port city of Cyprus and Othello who is the hero of the tragedy, is introduced as a “Moor”(Moroccan). It is thought that the author had heard the name of the Venetian governor that is Christophoro Moro and he assumed that he was Moroccan.
The land entrance was protected by a ravelin. There are also passages, cannon holes, chapel and some underground rooms that were used as dungeons. The tower facing the sea is dating to Venetian period and is called Arsenaf Canbulat Tower. According to the rumors, he was martyred while he was fighting to deactivate the wheel during the Ottoman invasion.