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Kolossi Castle was originally a 13th century Frankish fortification near Limassol in Cyprus. Constructed by the Knights Hospitallers in 1210, Kolossi Castle almost exclusively remained in their possession until it was destroyed by Mameluke raids in 1525-6. The current Kolossi Castle was built in 1454 under the orders of Louis de Magnac.
Kolossi Castle history
During the Middle Ages, the location of Kolossi held great strategic importance, with the facilities for producing sugar from the local sugarcane – one of Cyprus’ main exports at the time. The first castle built on the site was constructed around 1210 by the Frankish military when King Hugh I of Cyprus and Jerusalem, who gave the land to the Knights Hospitallers.
The Knights were a Catholic military order tasked with protecting the Crusader Kingdom, and under the orders of the Commander of Kolossi, Louis de Magnac, they built an impenetrable 3-storey keep with a square bailey with walls 30-40 metres across. Kolossi Castle features small windows for defence as well as iconic crenellations for archers.
Due to rivalry within the Crusader Kingdom in Cyprus, Kolossi was taken by the Knights Templar in 1306. However, the Templar was disbanded in 1313 and so the fortress returned to the Hospitallers. Since the time of the Crusades, the castle has featured in many works of historical fiction, including ‘La milicia de DIos’ by Spanish author Eduardo García-Ontiveros Cerdeño and ‘Lionheart’ by Stewart Binns.
Kolossi Castle today
Today, you can explore the extraordinarily well-preserved Crusader keep at only €2,50 entry. You can climb from the basement all th eway to the roof to survey the surrounding area, the same view that would have been enjoyed by Kolossi’s inhabitants over a millennia ago. Also spot the coat of arms on the castle walls belonging to Louis de Magnac.
Visitors should also sample some of the local area’s sweet wine known as Commandaria. The dessert wine is famous after the wedding of Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre at nearby Limassol, when the king declared the wine to be “wine of kings and king of wines”.
Getting to Kolossi Castle
Driving is the easiest way to reach Kolossi, located just off the B6 linking with the islands main A1 road. The castle is signposted from the motorway so is easily found, and there is space for parking on-site. For those using public transport, there is a bus stop at 1st Apriliou on the B6, a 27 minute walk from the castle.
The Castle of Kolossi
In the heart of the richest valley in the south of Cyprus, western the environs of the city of Limassol, comes up one of the most important forts of the Medieval Cyprus, photo 2, that is the famous Kolossi Castle. This fertile valley to the mouth of the river Kouris was often mentioned by the sightseers of the Middle Ages because of its immense sugar-cane, olive, cotton, locust-tree and cereal plantations as well as its vineyards it constituted one of the most important feuds of the noble Franks during their dominating Cyprus.
In 1210 Hugues I, the sovereign of the de Lusignans’ dynasty, granted this rich feud to the friars of the Order of Saint John. The name of the area derives most probably from Gerinus de Colos, former feudal lord of the region.
It remains uncertain when the first fortress, of which the ruins round the later monument eastern and western, which escaped destruction, was exactly constructed. The only thing that can safely be mentioned is that it was constructed in the 13th century.
After the fall of Acre (1291), circa 1301/2, the knights of the Order of Saint John transferred the seat οf their activities to Kolossi.
According to the sources, in 1306 Kolossi came under the occupation of the friars’ Order of the Knights Templars, which became a major political force. In 1308 the Knights of the Order of Saint John dominated it again, after Pope Clement issuing the provisions by which the Order of the Knights Templars was declared illegal.
In 1310 the administration seat of the Knights of the Order of Saint John was transferred to Rhodes however, their already erected fortress in Kolossi remained the seat of Commanderie, the powerful military administration. This regime was confirmed by a relevant decision made by the Order in 1380. The fortress was mostly used as a residence and an administration seat of the leaders of the Order of friars, who organised, controlled and exploited the production of the big plantations in the valley of Kolossi indeed and in the major region, covering initially about 60 villages according to some estimates.
The Commanderie of Kolossi gave its name to the traditional sweet Cypriot wine, which is known until nowadays under the name of commanderie. Obviously, the Order promoted the mass production and marketing of this wine under its name.
In 1373 disastrous raids by the Genoese and in 1402,1413,1425 and 146 by the Mamelukes seemed to leave the initial fortress in ruins.
In 1454 the major commander of the Order, Louis de Magnac B (the blazon in the photograph representing the dynasty of Magnac taken from the great blazon of Kolossi, on which the emblems of the kingdoms of: de Lusignans, Jerusalem, Cyprus and Armenia C in a copy sample are illustrated) had a new and more powerful fortress constructed, the one that still exists today. Photo 3
It is a stone made fortress with walls of a 1.25 m. depth, with three walls of a 21 m. height. The baseground was most probably used as a store with two underground cisterns. One can enter the first floor via a suspended bridge. On the south wall of one of the two big rooms of the baseground there is a wall painting representing the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the blazon of Magnac photo 4, which is the testimony of the devotional use of this room while the next room with the fireplace was likely to be the main dining and reception room.
On the second floor there are two more rooms, which were used for lodging. On the roof of the monument, a scalding bowl and loopholes bring the thought of the visitor back to medieval sieges.
In 1488, George Cornaro, brother of Catherine, the last Queen of the Franks, was compensated with obtaining 14 out of 41 villages, which were still under the control of the Commanderie of Rhodes, after persuading his sister to waive her sovereign rights over the island to the benefit of the Venetians, and each Cornaro Family’s leader was granted the title of the High Commander of Cyprus.
This title remained a family distinction even after the Ottomans seizing Cyprus and in 1799 it was granted to the Mozzenigo family, after the marriage of a Mozzenigo with an heir from the Cornaro family.
In the east side of the monument, a big arched room sheltered part of the facilities for the processing of sugar. The Department of Antiquities conducts there an excavation research, on a regular basis over the last five years.
The Centre of Commandaria Production
Of course Kolossi castle was a safe defense feature for those living in it, but the silent witness of the past is not only famous for that.
The region of Kolossi was famous for its rich plantations of sugar cane and grapes, which is why the fortress became the focus of very profitable sugar and high quality wine production. On the land of the feud, local independent peasants (pariks) grew grapes amongst other things, and it was here where the wonderful wine commandaria, now famous all over the world, was invented and started its victorious march.
Those who come to the Commandaria region in September will see large and small ‘carpets’ of grapes laid almost everywhere along the roads on a polyethylene film under the hot sun.
Light bunches of xynisteri and dark bunches of mavro dry and become sweet raisins – only until the sugar level reaches the necessary level, while the grapes still have enough juice in them. It usually takes ten to twelve days. Winegrowers turn the bunches over every day during this period, until it is time to take the ‘sugared’ berries to the collecting depots.
The young commnadaria spends its time in wine cisterns of the village cooperative, while in about five months the wine moves to a large company where it is enhanced, but until then some of the wine is decanted and sold at a lower price to local producers.
If you have a chance to sample such Cypriot wine in one of the Commandaria villages you will experience the taste as during the time of crusaders. Тraditions are maintained!
The sweet Cypriot ‘nectar’ was once sold mainly to Venetians and Genoese, but the wine was also popular with pilgrims.
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.
Kolossi Castle: South & East walls
View from castle roof towards aqueduct & church
East view from castle roof, showing sugar refinery
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
Remains South of the castle
Remains West of the castle
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.
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Kolossi Castle should be in the itinerary of all those visiting the area of Lemesos.
You will not need much time to look around its premises, but it is well-worth a visit for its historical background, and for the experience of being inside a castle that was originally built in the 13th century, and imagining what it must have been like living in such a majestic place.
The castle originally belonged to the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem and was the seat of the most important of their Commanderies. During some years in the 14th century, it was controlled by the now more famous than ever Knights Templar.
The castle is a square tower with 21 metres (69 ft) high and three floors. The ground floor was probably used as storeroom, the kitchen was probably located on the second floor, and the third floor was the living quarters of the Commander.
To the south of the castle you will find a courtyard enclosed by walls and the ruins of an auxiliary building, which most likely was a stable or a warehouse. On the southwest corner of that building there was an entrance, protected by a circular tower. The sugarcane refinery installations that make Kolossi an important sugar producer in the old times have been located to the east of the castle.
The area also produced and exported the traditional sweet wine of Cyprus, which became known as the “Vin de Commanderie” or Commandaria. This is now one of the oldest named wines in the world, having kept the same name for eight centuries. Make sure you take a bottle home with you as a souvenir from your visit to the area.
• A key landmark for those visiting Lemesos' area – only 15 kms west of the town of Lemesos.
• The castle's history is linked to the Knights Templar (now of “The Da Vinci Code” fame).
• The castle was an important sugar producer sometime in the 15th century.
• Kolossi's area is famous for producing the wine “Commandaria”.
• The stairs up the tower and down to the basement do not have handrails.
• Explanations are not displayed, so make sure you have a copy of this information or a guide book with you when visiting the castle not to miss the important bits.
Kolossi Medieval Castle
A reminder of Cyprus’s crusading history, the Kolossi Medieval Castle in Limassol served as a stopping point for knights heading to Jerusalem.
Originally built in the thirteenth century, the castle served as a grand command centre for the Knights of the Order of St. John. In the fourteenth century, the castle was reconstructed and occupied by the Knights Templar.
During their stay in Cyprus, the Knights produced and exported a sweet wine which became known as the ‘vin de Commanderie’. Today, Commandaria wine is one of the island’s traditional wines and one of the oldest appellations in the world, having had the same name for eight centuries.
The castle today consists of a single three-storey with an attached rectangular enclosure or bailey about 30 by 40 metres. Next to the castle are the ruins of a fourteenth-century sugar mill.
Kolossi Castle appears in literature from around the world and particularly in many works of fiction, including La milicia de Dios by the Spanish writer Eduardo García-Ontiveros Cerdeño. It also appears in Snow Wasted by the Cypriot author Matthew Malekos and in the novels of several British writers, including Race of Scorpions: The House of Noccolo by Dorothy Dunnett, In Search of Sixpence by Michael Paraskos and Lionheart by Stewart Binns.
Kolossi Castle is open all year round, but is closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and on Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday. The entrance fee is €2.50 per person.
Note: Opening and closing times as well as entrance fees, are subject to alterations without notice. Visitors are advised to check before visiting.
Kolossi Castle - History
Kolossi village is a place very close to our hearts. We lived there for a number of years, made friends, rented a house, restored a house and really got into the village way of life.
Located west of Limassol, the illage was the famed home to Richard the Lionheart, he lived at the local castle.
The Official Kolossi Village Video
To illustrate just a tiny part of the village, here is a video below where someone uploaded to Youtube of their drive through the outside edge of the village from the old Ypsonas Rd through to the Castle.
A quick drive through the old part of Kolossi village
Some interesting facts about Kolossi village and a bit more of the village filmed from the battlements of the Castle
Anything Else To See After The Castle?
Well, once you have visited the castle and the sugar cane factory next door and learned all about Richard The Lionheart, the Order Of St John and the Knights Templar you might want to have a little look round the village.
As you leave the castle and stand with it on your left, you can take a 2 minute walk into the village.
Kolossi Village is very quiet, you won't see hustling and bustling and lots of people, but those you do see will be polite and friendly towards visitors.
They are used to many tourists visiting during the summer to their famous castle.
The first video you see above is the route I am talking about in reverse. So it starts from the main road to the castle, but you will be walking from the castle to the main road.
Useful to make note of and then you know you will be travelling in the right direction.
As you leave the castle area you will first find:
The church of Agios Efstathios was built in the 12th century, although important repairs and conversions have been done to it during the middle of the 15th century.
It seems that it was used by the knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers) -owners of the castle nearby -because the coat of arms of their Grand Commander, Louis-de-Magnac, was still extant upon the arch of the church until 1930. The same coat of arms exists on various point of the castle. Indeed, it is probable that the same knights -because of the military status of the saint and his Latin descent -gave the name of St. Efstathios to the Byzantine church that pre-existed.
Words in italics adapted from kolossi.org
There is a nice church called Apostolos Loucas and every October there is a fair over a weekend dedicated to the local village saint.
The doors may be open if you are lucky but if not you can still sit down outside and have a few peaceful moments of contemplation.
Useful if you have had a heavy day sightseeing and your head is full of history.
There is a cafe opposite, owned by the parents of Pambos who has the village shop just around the corner from both the church and the coffee shop. Years ago it used to be the outdoor cinema for kolossi village.
Very sadly his father recently died but we can still see his lovely warm face smiling at us and greeting us as we went about the village.
If it is open, pop in for a cyprus coffee and get a taste of some local village life. Some of the village elders congregate here for a coffee and a bit of a chat and a game of tavli (backgammon).
This is one of 3 coffee shops in the old village.
There is another small stone church nearby which is nice for a photograph but you probably won't be able to get in.
The Church of Agios Andronicos is located at the centre of the village. It was built in the 13th century and was the community's main church for quite a few years.
Reconditioning, reparation, and preservation of the temple was done by the Church Committee of Apostle Luke in collaboration with the Antiquities Department.
The veneer was taken off and the stone, with which the church is made, was maintained. Rare frescoes were discovered inside the temple and they were maintained. These frescoes are excellent samples of hagiography.
Words in italics adapted from kolossi.org
And if that isn't enough you will also find a fourth church as you are leaving Kolossi village. This one is painted white and very modern.
The small church of "Panagia tou Tamana" is located at the centre of the community and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It took its name from the place-name of the region, which is called "Tamanas".
The Church Committee of Apostle Luke maintained the small church during the years 2000-2003 and it has now started the creation of frescoes. The expenses for the frescoes are covered by the donations of the faithful.
The country church of "Panagia tou Tamana" celebrates on the 8th of September, the birthday of the Virgin Mary.
Words in italics adapted from kolossi.org
Photo Credits: Constantinos Phillipou
Thank you to Constantinos for the photographs of the churches in Kolossi village.
I Am Hungry Now.. What Shall I Do?
If you continue your walk out of the old side of the village, past the school on one side and the little bank on the other you will meet the main road.
Turn right here and head for the shops.
There are 2 large bakeries and 1 small one, a pizza place and a larger more trendy cafe style place on the corner.
Ask anyone where the "old kolossi steak house" was and you will be directed the the cafe bar.
You can buy a drink and a snack anytime during the day.
Our preference for a sandwich is the bakery next to the grapevines. Run by a lovely young family who live behind the shop.
The fresh rolls are gorgeous and you can buy small pastries by weight and ready made sandwiches
For sweet treats it has to be Paniyiotos Sweet Corner across the road. Run by the most delightful family, they will make you a sandwich to order. Halloumi and bacon is our favourite.
You can sit outside the shop and have a coffee while you while away your time and decide what you are going to do for the rest of the day.
Sometimes Pani's family will be there watching him working making his delicious cakes and pastries.
His freshly made macaroons are to die for. Simply gorgeous!
Pani is also a bit of classic car man and you will often seen his pride and joy outside the shop.
What About During The Evening?
If you are around Kolossi Village in the evening, say on your way back from Curium (Kourion) about 6.30 pm ish.. it would be a good time to visit Leontis or Leo for short.
He owns this little restaurant and take away.
You will find him located on the way out of the village to Ypsonas village on the old road.
Right next to Patras Cars and the tyre shop.
He has some of the biggest and best pork chops in the area.
As you can see they are from a very large pig!
Leo is a charcoal grill expert and his chops have never failed and the chips that come with it and the salad are superb.
You can also have lamb chops, sheftalia or chicken and he does a great kebab sandwich if you fancy just a take away.
Sometimes on a Friday night he will light up the kleftico oven outside the shop and make the long slow cooked lamb dish (kleftico) and maybe some roast potatoes too.
Dont miss it if you get the opportunity.
If you are in a hurry and want something quick, across the road from Leo and opposite the chinese take away you will spot Galadia and Phillipous.
People we know and love, they have recently started up a takeaway service for local kebab food but it you want to stay and eat there is a table and chairs to sit on.
They are lovely people and will welcome you with open arms.
Tell them Michael and Jackie sent you.
English is not their first language but you will certainly be able to have a bit of a conversation with them.
Kolossi Castle is a former Crusader stronghold on the south-west edge of Kolossi village 14 kilometres (9 mi) west of the city of Limassol on the island of Cyprus. Ώ] It held great strategic importance in the Middle Ages, and contained large facilities for the production of sugar from the local sugarcane, one of Cyprus's main exports in the period. The original castle was possibly built in 1210 by the Frankish military, when the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh I to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers). ΐ]
The present castle was built in 1454 by the Hospitallers under the Commander of Kolossi, Louis de Magnac, whose arms can be seen carved into the castle's walls. Α]
Owing to rivalry among the factions in the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, the castle was taken by the Knights Templar in 1306, but returned to the Hospitallers in 1313 following the abolition of the Templars. Β]
The castle today consists of a single three-storey keep with an attached rectangular enclosure or bailey about 30 by 40 metres (98 by 131 ft). Γ]
As well as its sugar. the area is also known for its sweet wine, Commandaria. At the wedding banquet after King Richard the Lionheart's marriage to Berengaris of Navarre at nearby Limassol, he allegedly declared it to be the "wine of kings and the king of wines." It has been produced in the region for millenia, and is thought to be the oldest continually-produced and named wine in the world, known for centuries as "Commandaria" after the Templars' Grand Commandery there. Δ]
Kolossi Medieval Castle
In the Middle Ages, in the area of Kolossi, there was once a rich fief that was of strategic importance to the surrounding region. Today, one of the most important fortresses from the era of Frankish Rule in Cyprus, the Kolossi Castle, stands as a reminder of this legendary time in the Limassol countryside.
The Castle was built in 1210, by the Ioannite Knights (a regiment that was established after the First Crusade), who had settled on the island under Lusignan rule. Because of the fort's great value, it changed hands several times during a particularly troubled period for the eastern Mediterranean basin. In 1306 - 1313, it was captured by the Knights Templar, and eventually destroyed in 1426, by the Mamluks of Egypt.
As it always remained a privileged fief, Kolossi did not take long to rediscover its former glory. In 1454, the Castle was rebuilt by the Commander of the Ioannites, Louis de Magnac. The magnificence of the fortress, which is awe-inspiring to this day, is indicative of the key role of the fief, as well as of the rich produce the surrounding areas offered. In fact, the Commanderie (military command) of Kolossi lent its name to the internationally renowned sweet wine of Cyprus, Commandaria.
Near the Kolossi fortress, there is a Byzantine church dating back to the 12th century. It appears that the Ioannites had used this temple, as the coat-of-arms of Louis de Magnac was preserved on the archway of the temple until 1936. During the 15th century, the Byzantine church was converted into a church of Ioannite worship, dedicated to Saint Efstathios, due to his military status and Latin origins.
Source of information: Kolossi Community Council, Department of Antiquities
* NOTE: The tributes of the Project "History of Limassol" present information that has emerged from historical research thus far. Any new data is embedded into the tributes, once it has been confirmed.