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An island in the Eastern Mediterranean, at the entrance of the Gulf of Alexandretta. It was originally inhabited by Phoenicians and Greeks, and was famous for its temples of Aphrodite. Though long autonomous, in the sixth century B.C. dominion over it was disputed by the Egyptians and the Persians, the latter ruling it till the invasion of Alexander the Great. From the Ptolemies of Egypt it passed to the Romans (59 B.C.). Despite Moslem invasions from the seventh to the tenth century, it remained a part of the Eastern Empire until the end of the twelfth. ln 1191 it was conquered by Richard the Lion-Hearted, who gave it to Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem; in 1373 it fell to the Genoese, in 1489 to the Venetians. Finally, in 1571, it became Moslem territory under Sultan Selim II. In 1878 it was occupied by England and is now administered by an English high commissioner, assisted by a board of four English members (Statesman's Year Book, London, 1908). The island is hilly, with few rivers, and the climate is hot. Its once famous cities have perished; the chief towns are now Larnaca (the best port), Nicosia, and Limasol. Its area is 3,584 square miles. The population in 1901 was 237,000 (51,000 Mussulmans, 1100 Maronites, 850 Latins, 300 Armenians, a few Protestants and Jews, and the rest Greeks). It produces dates, carobs, oranges and other fruits, oil, wine, and corn. It has also sponge fisheries. Gypsum is mined there and copper mines were worked in ancient times. Christianity was successfully preached in Cyprus by St. Paul, St. Barnabas (a native of the island), and St. John Mark. At Paphos the magician Elymas was blinded and the Proconsul Sergius Paulus was converted (Acts 11:13-15). The Byzantine "Synaxaria" mention many saints, bishops, and martyrs of this early period, e.g. St. Lazarus, St. Heraclides, St. Nicanor (one of the first seven deacons), and others. In the fourth century we find two illustrious names, that of St. Spiridion, the shepherd Bishop of Trimithus, present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 with two other Cypriot bishops, whose relics were removed to Corfù in 1460, and that of St. Epiphanius (d. 403), Bishop of Salamis, the zealous adversary of all heresies and author of many valuable theological works. The Bishop of Salamis (later Constantia) was then metropolitan of the whole island, but was himself subject to the Patriarch of Antioch. During the Arian quarrels and the Eustathian schism, the Cypriote Church began to claim its independence. Pope Innocent I stood out for the rights of the Antiochene patriarch, Alexander I. However, it was not long before the Council of Ephesus (431) in its seventh session acknowledged the ecclesiastical independence of Cyprus: the cause was gained by the metropolitan, Rheginus, who was present at Ephesus with three of his suffragans. In 488 Peter the Dyer (Petrus Fullo), the famous Monophysite patriarch, made an effort to recover the ancient Antiochene jurisdiction over the island. During the conflict, however, the Cypriote metropolitan, Anthimus, claimed to have learned by a revelation that the site of the sepulchre of St. Barnabas was quite near his own city of Salamis; he found there the body of the Apostle with a copy of St. Matthew's Gospel, brought the relics to Constantinople, and presented them to the Emperor Zeno. Acacius of Constantinople decided in favour of Cyprus against Antioch, since which time the ecclesiastical independence (autocephalia) of the island has no more been called in question, the archbishop, known as exarch, ranking immediately after the five great patriarchs.
From the fifth to the twelfth century the following Archbishops of Constantia (Salamis) are worthy of note: Acadius, biographer of St. Symeon Stylites the Younger, and an uncompromising opponent of the Ecthesis of Heraclius (q.v.); Sergius, who condemned this document in a council and sent the pertinent decree to Pope Theodore I, but became afterwards infected with the very error he had formerly condemned; George, a defender of the holy images (icons); Constantine, who played a conspicuous part in their defence at the Second Nicene Council (787); Nicholas Muzalon, appointed Patriarch of Constantinople in 1147. Another remarkable prelate is St. Demetrianus, Bishop of Chytraea (ninth and tenth century). After the conquest of Cyprus by the Arabs, 632-647, the Christian population with its bishops emigrated to the mainland. Justinian II built for them, near the Hellespont, a city which he called Nea Justinianopolis; their archbishop enjoyed there the rights he had in Cyprus, besides exercising jurisdiction over the surrounding country (Quinisext Council, can. xxxix, 692). After the death of Justinian II the Cypriotes returned to their island with their hierarchy. Under Nicephorus Phocas (963-969) Cyprus was freed completely from the Arabs, who had sometimes treated it more kindly than the Byzantine emperors. Christianity, however, gained by the restoration. To this period belongs the foundation of three great monasteries, Our Lady of Pity (Eleusa) of Kykkos, Machaeras, and the Encleistra, the last founded in the twelfth century by the recluse Neophytus, author of several ascetical works. The Frankish rule, though at first accepted rather willingly, was finally the source of profound disturbance. In 1196 King Amaury obtained from Celestine III a Latin hierarchy for his kingdom: a resident archbishop was placed at Nicosia (Leucosia), with three suffragans at Paphos, Limasol (Temessos), and Famagusta (Ammochostos, formerly Arsinoe). Knights Templars, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, Regular Canons, Premonstratensian nuns soon had many flourishing monasteries. Splendid churches were built in the Gothic or ogival style, and many Greek churches were changed into Latin ones. Ecclesiastical revenues were assigned (in part) to the Latin clergy; the Greek clergy and the faithful were subordinated to Latin jurisdiction. In the execution of the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) Cardinal Pelagius, legate of Innocent III, showed himself utterly intransigent. Thirteen refractory Greek monks were cruelly put to death. The Greek archbishop, Neophytus, was deposed and exiled, the Greek sees reduced to four, the bishops ordered to reside in small villages and obey the Latin archbishop (1220-1222). Innocent IV and Alexander IV were more favourable to the Greeks (Hergenröther-Kirsch, Kirchengesch., 4th ed., 1904, II, 726), and the Government often defended them against the Latins. The ecclesiastical history of Cyprus during this sad period is one of conflict between the two rival communions, the Greeks being always looked on as more or less schismatic both by the Latins and by the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople. An attempted union of the two Churches in 1405 did not succeed, nor was the Union of Florence (1439) more lasting. In 1489, through the abdication of Queen Caterina Cornaro, the island became subject to Venice, whose rule was even more intolerable to the Greeks, so that, as stated, in 1571 they welcomed the Turkish conquerors as true deliverers.
Among the more conspicuous Latin Archbishops of Nicosia may be mentioned Eustorge de Montaigu (1217-1250) who died at the siege of Damietta, a stern defender of the rights of his Church and a skilful administrator; he increased the splendour of the church services, established schools, built the archiepiscopal palace and the magnificent cathedral of St. Sophia; Ugo di Fagiano (1251-1261), distinguished for his zeal and piety, but a zealous adversary of the Greeks; Gérard de Langres (1274), deposed by Boniface VIII for siding with Philip the Fair; Giovanni del Conte (1312), renowned for his charity; Cardinal Elie de Nabinals (1332), a great reformer; Andreas of Rhodes (1447), present at the Council of Florence; Filippo Mocenigo (1559), who assisted at the closing sessions of the Council of Trent, helped the Venetians against the Turks, and, after the loss of Cyprus, retired to Italy. The Latin bishops of Cyprus showed themselves generally worthy of their mission, by resisting the encroachments of the kings, sometimes also of the Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem, and even of the pontifical legates. The only reproach they deserve is a want of tact in their behaviour towards the Greeks, and also that their clergy at certain times were guilty of moral laxity. Few saints appear in Latin Cyprus; we hear only of the saintly Franciscan, Ugo di Fagiano, and the Dominican, Pierre de La Palu, Patriarch of Jerusalem and administrator of the See of Limasol. Blessed Pierre Thomas, a Carmelite and papal legate, who strove hard to convert the Greeks, died at the siege of Famagusta in 1366.
After frightful massacres, the Turks allowed the Greeks to reorganize their Church as they liked: viz, with an archbishop styled "Most Blessed Archbishop of Nea Justiniana [a blunder for Justinianopolis] and all Cyprus", and three bishops at Paphos, Citium, and Karpasia. In the seventeenth century the last-named see was suppressed, and its territory given to the archdiocese; on the other hand the ancient See of Kyrenia was re-established. Cyprus, like the other autocephalous orthodox Churches, has its "Holy Synod", which consists of four bishops and four priests. In the last three centuries there are few events to mention, apart from simoniacal elections and perpetual domestic quarrels. In 1668 Archbishop Nicephorus held a council against the Protestants. In 1821 the four Greek bishops, with many priests, monks, and laymen, were murdered by the Turks. After 1900 strife arose in the ancient Church of St. Barnabas, and it was found impossible to name a successor to the archbishop who died in that year. The Turkish conquest caused the ruin of the Latin Church: two bishops were then killed with many priests and monks, the churches were profaned, and the Latin Catholics left the island. However, as early as 1572, Franciscans could again reside at Larnaca; after a century they had gathered about 2000 Catholics of various rites. Since 1848 Cyprus has been ecclesiastically dependent on the new Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Franciscans have stations at Larnaca, Limasol, and Nicosia, with schools and five churches; Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition conduct schools in these three towns, and have a hospital and an orphanage at Larnaca.
The Maronites were very numerous during the period of Latin rule, but owing to persecutions of Greeks or Turks have mostly all departed or apostatized. The latter are called Linobambaci; some of them returned to Catholicism. Cyprus, with a part of Lebanon, still forms a Maronite diocese, with 30,000 faithful. They have in the island a few churches and four monasteries, but lack good schools (See MARONITES). Among the resident Armenians there is only an insignificant number (12) of Catholics; the rest obey the Gregorian Patriarch of Jerusalem and have two priests and a monastery. Other Christians of Eastern Rites, who lived in Cyprus during the Middle Ages, subject to their own bishops, have now completely disappeared.
COBHAM, An Attempt at a Bibliography of Cyprus (4th ed. Nicosia, 1900), about 700 titles; IDEM, A Handbook of Cyprus (London, 1901); MAS-LATRIE, Histoire de l'île de Chypre sous le règne des princes de la maison de Lusignan (Paris, 1861-65); IDEM, Histoire des archevèques latins de l'île de Chypre in Archives de l'Orient latin, II, 207-328; HACKETT, A History of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus (London, 1901); PHRANKUDES, Kypris (Athens, 1890); FORTESCUE, The Orthodox Eastern Church (London, 1907).
APA citation. (1908). Cyprus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04589a.htm
MLA citation. "Cyprus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04589a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Diane E. Dubrule.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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