Gilles Grivaud

Christopher Schabel

Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque, Famagusta. Built by the Lusignan kings of Cyprus after the fall of Jerusalem in 1291, this former cathedral of St Nicholas was in part modeled on the cathedral at Rheims. A new Lusignan monarch, having been crowned King of Cyprus, came here to be crowned King of Jerusalem. Following the fall of Famagusta in 1571, the Ottoman ruler Lala Mustafa cleared altars, statues, and tombs from the interior, whitewashed walls and replaced stained with clear glass.

The history of the Kingdom of Cyprus under the Lusignans is divided into two basic phases, a rise from 1192 to the mid-14th century and a decline from the around the Black Death to the death of the last king in 1474. Parallel to this is a decline in the literary production of the island, but this is simultaneous with the rise of Cyprus in the western imagination, due largely to the differing activities of King Hugh IV (1324-59) and Peter I (1359-69). The party escaping the plague in Florence involved Cyprus in a number of their tales in the Decameron of Boccaccio, whom Hugh IV engaged to compose the Genealogia deorum gentilium. Boccaccio's circle was thereafter linked to the Lusignan court. It has been suggested that one of those whom Boccaccio inspired, Chaucer, modelled his Knight on the chancellor of Cyprus for most of our period, Philippe de Mézières. The Vieil Pèlerin himself wrote a number of works about Cyprus, including the main hagiographical text from the Latin East, the Life of Peter Thomas, and autobiographical materials in Latin and French. King Hugh attracted Latin, Greek, and Arab scholars to his court in Nicosia, whose monasteries and convents housed up-to-date scientific libraries. The leading Cypriot intellectual of the day was the Greek polymath George Lapithes, who carried on an active correspondence with Greek intellectuals in Byzantium and elsewhere. Hugh's protection of anti-Palamite theologians helped earned him praise from the great Byzantine authors of the day. But it is the Romantic image of the ill-fated crusader Peter I that has dominated Cyprus' literary image until today, in Machaut, Chaucer, Mézières, and many others. Less known, but equally fascinating, is the mélange of cultures that Cyprus became in this period, in music, religious ritual, and historiography, culminating in the chronicle of Leontios Makhairas.