MERİT CYPRUS GARDENS RESORT & CASINO
POINTS OF ATTRACTION
A two-story rectangular building located in the courtyard of the Venetian Palace west of Namık Kemal Square. The only cell has a door that opens to the courtyard of the Venetian Palace. There is a falcon in the front of the rectangular room on the upper floor. Namık Kemal was exiled to Cyprus on April 9, 1873, after the performance of his play “Vatan Yahut Silister” (Motherland or Silistria) at the Gedik Pasha Theater in Istanbul. At first, the poet was imprisoned in the dungeon on the lower floor. After a while, upon permission granted by Veyis Pasha, the governor of Cyprus, he was moved to the upper floor. On June 3, 1876, he was pardoned by Murat V and returned to Istanbul. In 1993, the Survey and Restoration Branch of the Department of Antiquities and Museums carried out the restoration and landscaping of the Namık Kemal Dungeon and opened it to visitation.
This building was built by the Lusignans in the 13th century as a royal palace. It is located to the west of Namık Kemal Square. The kings of Cyprus resided in this palace until the start of Peter II’s reign in 1369. The palace suffered a collapse because of an earthquake. The western wing, which houses an early 16th-century L-shaped structure, and three arched entryways supported by four columns brought from Salamis are what survive of it today. Emblazoned on top of the arch in the middle is the coat of arms of Lieutenant Giovanni Renier, who was Cyprus’s governor in 1552.
The walls that surrounded the city until 1489 were tall but also quite thin structurally. When the Venetians took the town, they started fortifying these defenses especially to counter the Ottomans. In particular, the fortifications by the sea, the Martinengo Bastion, and the land gate are products of those efforts. A 46-meter-wide moat was dug along the periphery of the walls as well. The walls surrounding the city were three kilometers long, roughly 18 meters tall, and nine meters wide. There are fourteen bastions along the walls. (In order from southeast to north, namely: 1) Arsenal, 2) Mare (Marine Gate), 3) Othello - Castella, 4) Signoria, 5) Diamate, 6) Mozzo, 7) Martinengo, 8) Pulacazaro, 9) Moratto, 10) Diocare, 11) Ravelin, 12) Santa Napa, 13) Andurizzi, 14) Campo Santa, and an interior tower (Othello’s Tower), and two of the original entrances, the land and marine gates. Despite all the Venetians’ fortifications, the city was conquered by the Ottomans on August 1, 1571. After suffering significant damages during the conquest, the city defenses were repaired by the Ottomans.
Built by the Lusignans in the 14th century, Othello’s Tower was used as one of the main entrances of the city of Famagusta. Inscribed under the relief of St. Mark’s Lion hanging over the tower entrance is the name Nicolo Foscari, the captain who redesigned the tower, and the date 1492. The tower is surrounded by a deep moat and contains in its structure bastions and corridors leading to artillery batteries. Inside the tower courtyard there are also cannons, iron cannonballs, and stone cannonballs, some from the Ottomans and others from the Spaniards. The land gate is guarded by a ravelin (a fortification in the shape of a half moon). In addition to passageways and cannon housings, there are underground rooms that were used as a chapel and a dungeon. The current name of the castle came into use under the English. Part of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy is set in a port city in Cyprus. Othello, the protagonist of the play, is referred to as a Moor. It is thought that the author may have heard the name of the island’s Venetian governor, Christophoro Moro, whose last name translates to “Moor,” and misinterpreted to mean he was a Moor from Morocco. In the present day, the hall inside the tower hosts many artistic and cultural activities. Several of the activities of the traditional Mağusa Culture, Art, and Tourism Festival organized by the Gazimağusa Municipality have been held here as well.
Built between 1298 and 1312, in the time of the Lusignans, this building is one of the most beautiful gothic structures in the entire Mediterranean. The Lusignan kings were crowned first as kings of Cyprus at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Nicosia and later as the kings of Jerusalem at St. Nicholas’s Cathedral in Famagusta. These ceremonies took place until the cathedral was converted into a mosque in 1571. The architecture of the cathedral’s western façade, which is its most beautiful and best preserved, was influenced by the Rheims Cathedral in France. The cathedral has an exquisite window decorated in the gothic style. Its 16th-century Venetian porch in the courtyard is used today as a fountain for ritual ablutions. The Venetian coat of arms can be seen above the rose windows at the entrance. It is thought that the relief featuring certain animal figures came from a temple in Salamis. The cathedral’s apse is in the Eastern style and in three sections, as is the case for most churches in Cyprus. The sycamore fig tree (Ficus sycomorus, a semideciduous tropical fig species) by the cathedral entrance is, with a history of about 700 years, the oldest living creature on the island of Cyprus. It is said that the plant was planted in 1298, when construction on the cathedral was started. Its trunk splits into seven branches at a height of 2.7 meters. The tree, which bears fruit seven times annually, casts an enchanting shadow before the cathedral. The tree is native to eastern Africa. Because of its lovely fruit, the shady cover it offers in hot areas, and the suitability of its lumber for making furniture, it had been important in the region since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Perhaps that is why locals sometimes call the tree’s fruit “Pharaoh's fruit.”
The ruins of ancient Salamis are located six kilometers north of Mağusa, on the banks of the River Kanlıdere (Pedios). The town of Salamis was founded late in the Bronze Age. According to legend, the founder was Teucer. The son of Telamon, king of the island of Salamis near Athens, Teucer was ejected from his homeland by his father for failing to prevent the suicide of his brother, Ajax, during the Trojan War, after which he came here and founded the city. The earliest findings in Salamis date back to the 11th century BC. According to the data obtained from the necropolis, the city was under Phoenician influence in that period. In 708 BC, Salamis, along with the rest of the island, entered Assyrian rule. The city existed as an independent kingdom for a while following the end of Assyrian rule in 669 but later entered Egyptian rule. When Egypt was taken by the Persians, Cyprus, too, entered Persian control in 525 BC. The island was freed from the rule of Persia during Alexander the Great’s Eastern Campaign.
The son of a Jewish family born in Salamis, St. Barnabas returned to Cyprus after studying in Jerusalem and started working with St. Paul to spread Christianity in AD 45. Because of those activities, he was slain by fellow citizens, and his body was stored in a swamp to be thrown into the sea. Having watched the events unfold, St. Barnabas’s followers buried his body in a subterranean cave to the west of Salamis, placing a copy of the Gospel of Matthew on his chest. The location of the body remained hidden for many years. Some 423 years later, Archbishop Anthemios declared that the tomb appeared to him in a dream, and he asked to have it opened. St. Barnabas was identified upon the opening of the tomb thanks to the Gospel of Matthew. Upon that discovery, the patriarch went to Constantinople to inform Emperor Zeno, winning sovereignty of the Church of Cyprus. The emperor made a donation to have a monastery built where the tomb was found. The monastery was constructed in 477. The monastery consists of a church, a courtyard, and rooms on three sides of the courtyard that used to be inhabited by priests. St. Barnabas’s Church contains a rich collection of icons mostly dating from the 18th century. The basalt mill in the monastery’s courtyard was brought from the settlement of Enkomi. The other columns and stones are from Salamis. The rooms in which the priests lived have been restored and made into an archaeological museum. Here, in the region’s most expansive museum, one can see various artifacts from Cyprus spanning a long historical segment from the Neolithic to the Roman era.