History of the Knights Templar in Cyprus
The Knights Templar’s have been present in Cyprus since 1191 when they bought the Island from King Richard the Lion Heart of England for a sum of 100,000 gold Bezants. [although only a 40,000 Bezant deposit is reported to have been paid] Templar Garrisons were established in Nicosia, Kyrenia, Kolossi, Kantara & Limassol also at Famagusta Khirokitia, Buffaventa, St Hilarion and Gastia. Kolossi Castle as well as the later headquarters of the Templar’s was also the centre for Commanderia Wine, referred to by Homer as “The sweet wine of Cyprus” still produced to this day as a strict “Appellation” Commandaria was served at the wedding of Richard the Lion heart to Berengaria in Limassol Castle in May 1191 and toasted as “The Wine of Kings and King of Wines”. Following the fall of Acre in 1291 [the last major Templar stronghold in the Holy Lands] the Templar Grand Master; Jacques de Mollay [c.1244 – 1314] moved the headquarters of the Order to Kolossi Castle in Cyprus. Templar attempts from Cyprus followed to retake the Holy Lands, but the last Crusader Garrisons at Tortusa [Tartus/Syria] Atlit [South of Haifa in Israel] and the final garrison at Arwad [Ruad Island in the Syrian Levant] fell in 1302. Cyprus remained the headquarters of the Templar Order in the Latin East, until Jacques de Mollay’s fateful call to Paris in 1306 to attend a conference with King Phillipe Le Bel IV of France and his arrest and imprisonment [under a Papal Bull issued by Pope Clement V] with many of the Templar Knights on Friday 13th October 1307. Some 72 Templar Knights were interrogated and tortured. Pope Clement suspended Interrogations as ‘unproven’ in February 1308, but after pressure from King Phillipe IV [concerned at his huge indebtedness to the Templar’s] proceedings and torture began again, ending with some 54 Templar’s being burned at the stake and on 18th March 1314 the Grand Master Jacques de Mollay and his Deputy Geoffroi de Charney were burned at the stake on the Isle de Seine in Paris. Although many Templar Knights were arrested on Friday 13th Oct 1307, [myth refers to as ’unlucky’ Fri 13th] it is reported the Templar Fleet of 18 ships Jacques de Mollay brought from Cyprus, escaped from the French port of La Rochelle as did other Templar Knights. The original Kolossi Castle was built circa 1210 on land owned by the Lusignan Hugh the First, given to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem [the Hospitallers] The present Castle with its imposing 21 metre high walls, was built circa 1454.Cyprus was not just a Military Garrison for the Knights Templar’s, but an important base for their financial and commercial enterprises, so much so, that in 1296 Pope Boniface VIII issued a Papal Bull giving Tax Free status to the Templar’s in Cyprus. The Knights Templar’s and then the Hospitallers [following the disbandment of the Templar’s in 1312] ruled in Cyprus for nearly 300 years until 1474 when the island passed back under Lusignan Rule.