25 Mar Kolossi Castle Revisited
Kolossi Castle Revisited: Earlier this year I wrote a short article on Kolossi Castle highlighting other features associated with the castle. Now it’s time to revisit Kolossi Castle on the castle in more detail, together with the sugar mill, church and aqueduct. I visited the castle in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2018, each time finding something new to think about. This article will draw on those visits archival and secondary research. It is not meant to be exhaustive: in fact, it’s a précis.
The Hospitallers already had property in Cyprus by 1203, including a house at Limassol and Monagroulli casale. In 1210, King Hugh de Lusignan granted Kolossi to the Hospitallers, along with other property, Phinikas included. From then on, Kolossi was the Hospitallers’ main administrative centre on Cyprus. However, they had an administrative and diplomatic base in Nicosia. By the sixteenth century, the Convent addressed letters regarding Hospitaller possessions on Cyprus to the head Hospitaller in Nicosia, not Kolossi.
After the fall of Acre in 1291, the Hospitallers’ headquarters moved to Limassol, remaining there until 1310. After their move to Rhodes, they gained (1313) most of the Templars’ property on Cyprus, on the latter’s suppression (1312). This made them the wealthiest landowners on Cyprus, second only to the crown.
The Castle and Casale
In 1412, Hospitallers had a governor at Kolossi and at other times throughout the 1400s, in addition to the commander. The governors had wide-ranging tasks that included ensuring responsions for all of Cyprus, not just Kolossi, were conveyed to Rhodes. Responsions varied from 7000-9000 Rhodian florins a year for the Grand Commandery, plus about 1000 florins for Phinikas & Anoyira.
Whereas Chirokitia was damaged in 1426 during the battle there, when the Mamluks attacked Cyprus, Kolossi was probably not taken. From Limassol, they headed in the opposite direction to Nicosia, before returning to Cairo, with the captive Lusignan king. However, Kolossi was damaged in 1434, when the Mamluks raided, which perhaps caused the needed repairs in the 1450s.
Rebuilding the castle
In December 1452, the grand master granted Fr. Louis de Magnac the commandery of Cyprus, on condition that he rebuilt the castle. It should have four towers in the corners and the walls were more than 2m thick.
Magnac was no stranger to Cyprus. He leased the commandery in 1449, had this extended in 1451 in which year he was granted Phinikas and Anoyira. As a reward for rebuilding Kolossi Castle, the grand master granted him both the Grand and Petit Commanderies in 1454.
The castle has on its east wall a number of coats of arms. On the right, the coat of arms of Jacques de Milly and the Order of St. John. At the bottom are the coat of arms of Louis de Magnac. In the centre those of the Lusignan kings of Cyprus and left those of Jean de Lastic and the Order. The gate under the aqueduct bears the coat of arms of Raymond Bérenger when he was Commander (1362-1365). They are different from his coat of arms as grand master.
Kolossi had a number of personnel associated with it, as did other Hospitaller properties. Apart from the commander or his lieutenant, there were tax collectors, managers, priest-brethren and secular administrators, such as scribes. Some parts of the commandery might be leased permanently to seculars. For example, in October 1459 Janicus de Frantia had a hereditary lease of a water mill in Kolossi. This was a confirmation by the grand master of Frantia’s agreement made with Magnac in June of the same year. As with other Hospitaller properties in the Latin East and Western Europe, the Commander had a fair amount of autonomy.
The Hospitallers spiritual needs were served by St. Eustathios Church, just outside the commandery walls. Although a Byzantine church, the Hospitallers used and patronised it. Their coat of arms was visible on the church until the early 20th century, but can no longer be seen.
Kolossi was important as a major centre of sugar production, though some was also produced at Phinikas. There was an aqueduct that supplied water to the mill that was next to the grinding hall. The aqueduct also supplied water to the fields where the sugar cane grew. At Kolossi, the Hospitallers had begun sugar production in the first half of the fourteenth century. By 1450 it was producing so much cane that not all of it could be refined. The Hospitallers sent some sugar to Rhodes, but they sold most of it. This made the Commandery rich and much sought after. It’s no coincidence that many future grand masters previously held the Grand Commandery of Cyprus.
Kolossi Castle through the Centuries, Katerina Aristidou
Crusader Archaeology: The Material Culture of the Latin East, by Adrian J Boas
‘Sugar and Schism: the Hospitallers in Cyprus from1378 to 1386’ in The Hospitaller State on Rhodes and its Western Provinces, 1306-1462, Anthony Luttrell
‘The Hospitallers in Cyprus after 1386’ in The Hospitaller State on Rhodes and its Western Provinces, 1306-1462, Anthony Luttrell
‘Rhodes and Cyprus: 1409-1459’ in Documents Concerning Cyprus from the Hospital’s Rhodian Archives: 1409-1459, Karl Borchardt, Anthony Luttrell, Ekhard Schöffler
‘La forteresse de Kolossi en Chypre’, Jean-Bernard de Vaivre, Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot