Medieval and Renaissance Cyprus was a fascinating place of ethnic, cultural, and religious encounters. Following almost nine centuries of Byzantine rule, Cyprus was conquered by the Crusaders in 1191, becoming (until 1571) the most important stronghold of Latin Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean—first under the Frankish dynasty of the Lusignans, and later under the Venetians. Modern historiographical readings of Cypriot identity in medieval and early modern times have been colored by British colonialism, Greek nationalism, and Cyprocentric revisionism. Although these perspectives have offered valuable insights into the historical experience of Latin-ruled Cypriots, they have partially failed to capture the dynamics of noncoercive resistance to domination, and of identity preservation and adaptation. Orthodox Cyprus under the Latins, 1191–1571 readdresses the question of Cypriot identity by focusing on the Greek Cypriots, the island’s largest community during the medieval and early modern period. By bringing together theories from the fields of psychology, social anthropology, and sociology, this study explores continuities and discontinuities in the Byzantine culture and religious tradition of Cyprus, proposing a new methodological framework for a more comprehensive understanding of Cypriot Orthodoxy under Crusader and Venetian rule. A discussion of fresh evidence from hitherto unpublished primary sources enriches this examination, stressing the role of medieval and Renaissance Cyprus as cultural and religious province of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine Orthodox world.
Chrysovalantis Kyriacou earned his PhD in history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and has taught at the University of Cyprus.
Introduction: Eagle, Cross, and Lion: Historiography and Orthodox Cypriot Identities
Chapter 1: “Under Heavy Storm and Tempest”: The Coming of the Latins
Chapter 2: “In Our Hearts and Our Churches We Do as We like”: Living under the Bulla Cypria
Chapter 3: “In Your Light We Shall See Light”: The Controversy over Palamite Hesychasm
Chapter 4: “Bounds Set between Us and You”: Boundary Maintenance in a Period of Transformations
Chapter 5: “Render unto Caesar”: Cypriot Orthodoxy under the Venetians
Coda: The Reed and the Olive Tree
Appendix I: Confession of Faith of the Monks of Kantara and a Synaxary on Their Memory
Appendix II: Encyclical Letter to the Cypriots by Patriarch Kallistos I of Constantinople
Appendix III: Florilegium on Purgatory and the Afterlife by Francis the Cypriot, OFM
This in-depth study on the Orthodox Cypriot Church and society under Frankish and Venetian rule explores important aspects of Orthodox identity over centuries of Roman Catholic domination (1191–1571). Based on a thorough investigation of a rich body of evidence, including hitherto unpublished texts, Chrysovalantis Kyriacou breaks fresh ground in a long scholarly debate, offering an independent view on fundamental questions concerning the preservation of Cypriot Orthodox Christian faith, ideology, spirituality, and identity. Employing modern theories from the fields of sociology, psychology, and social anthropology, he explores various ways these elements were expressed through non-coercive, non-violent, and covert anti-Latinism, including the development of multiple identities and devotional practices related to Orthodox theophanic theology. This is a substantial contribution in the field of Cypriot, Byzantine, and medieval studies, providing a valuable model of historical interpretation in similar cases of religious domination, past and present.
This remarkable book is a history of Cyprus in the Middle Ages, a little-known story of a community trying to maintain ‘the balance between superficial submission to the Latins and preservation of Orthodox identity.’ Clear, well-researched, and balanced, Chrysovalantis Kyriacou’s work allows the reader to move beyond the Rome versus Constantinople dialectic to see the more complex and multilayered reality in which Cypriots found themselves. He ably chronicles how the Cypriots preserved their identity during this contentious period, somehow surviving the machinations of popes and kings, emperors and patriarchs, doges and sultans. It is a story that needed to be told, and we can only be grateful that Kyriacou’s book does it so well.
This excellent new study offers a thoughtful and thought-provoking exploration of Cypriot society in the Lusignan and Venetian periods. Chrysovalantis Kyriacou’s scholarship is evident on every page; likewise, his sensitivity to questions of identity and belonging, and how these questions can be understood by historians at a considerable remove from events. His analysis of the textual and visual culture of a society under external rule is alive to nuances of liturgy, theology, and representation. Although underpinned by a sophisticated understanding of social theory, it is also highly readable. Kyriacou has done a great service to Byzantine studies, and to the study of Greek Orthodox-Latin relations in particular. This book, by providing new editions as well as informed discussions of texts, brings a new dimension to Cypriot history.
[A] valuable addition to the history of Cyprus between the years 1191 and 1571 and to the ongoing arguments on how it should be perceived.
Kyriacou’s narrative is well-researched, highly readable, and frequently persuasive…. [H]e certainly does a great job in keeping us engaged and forcing us to think through the questions he poses.