Compared to other harbor fortresses around the world, the Medieval Castle fo Paphos is a modest structure. Yet it doesn’t lack charm. The views from its top floor inspire nostalgia and a sense of romantic wonder.
Paphos Castle: Medieval fort with a checkered past.
Symbol of the city, the Medieval Castle has a frantic history. The first Byzantine fort to protect the harbor, Saranta Kolones, was destroyed by the 1222 Cyprus earthquake. It was a violent event that caused significant loss of life and extensive damage. In fact, archeological discoveries at the site of Saranta Kolones revealed the remains of a man who died trapped in the castle’s main drain trying to escape the quake. The ruins of the first sentinel of the port still stand and can be seen inside the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park.
To replace the fortress destroyed by the 1222 AD earthquake, the Frankish rulers erected a new structure with two towers in the middle of the 13th century, but this too suffered changes later.The Genoese captured Paphos in 1373 and made changes to the stronghold also shaping its moat. At the end of the 15th century, the round tower of the new Paphos Castle was destroyed by an earthquake. Its ruins can be seen at the west of the existing tower. In 1570, as the Ottoman threat drew near, the Venetians destroyed the second tower. The building that stands today guarding the harbor is the 1780 Ottoman restoration of the original Frankish western tower with the Venetian enhancements.
The Ottomans used the basement of the castle as a long-term jail, while the garrison lived on the upper floors. They also used the central room as a mosque and set twelve battlements with cannons on the roof to protect the harbor. When the Turks handed over the administration of Cyprus to the British in 1878, the guns were removed. The building was subsequently used as a salt warehouse until 1935 when the edifice was declared an Ancient Monument under the Antiquities Law.
Today, the Paphos Medieval Castle is a notable landmark open to the public every day, year round. It is a lovely sight from the land, and it’s also worth a visit for its rooftop vistas, which allow you to observe the sea and the harbor in all its muted splendor.