According to Assyrian sources from the 7th century B.C., Nicosia used to be a city named Ledra. In about 300 B.C., the son of the Egyptian King Ptolemy Soter I, Lefkos, rebuilt this city and this name is immortalised in the modern name of Lefkosa (Turkish). The Frankish name Nicosia is thought to have appeared in the 12th century.

Richard the Lionheart captured the island of Cyprus on his way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade in 1191. It was in Cyprus that he married Bregadine of Navarre, who was chosen as his wife by his mother, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Cyprus remained under Richard's rule for one year until 1192, when he sold it to the Knights Templars who ruled the island from Nicosia. The Templars permitted Guy de Lusignan, who had lost his Kingdom of Jerusalem to his cousin, to buy Cyprus a few months later. From that date onwards, Nicosia remains the capital city of Cyprus.

The city flourished during the Lusignan era, churches and palaces where built and the city grew. This glorious period in the history of the city ended in 1489 when the Venetians captured Cyprus. The Venetians demolished most of the Lusignan monuments, and used the masonry to fortify the city against the anticipated Ottoman invasion. In 1567, just before the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus, they started to build a protective wall to defend the city. The Venetian engineer Guilio Savorignano drew the plans of the wall, which have a circumference of 3 miles, 11 bastions and 3 gates. The remains of this wall still encircle the old city today. The 3 gates were named "Porta Del Proveditore - The Kyrenia Gate", "Porta Guiliana - The Famagusta Gate" and "Porta Domenica - The Paphos Gate". The Kyrenia Gate is still intact today, and remains as an attractive historic monument situated in North Nicosia. The efforts of the Venetians did not prevent the island from falling to the Ottoman admiral Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1570 during the reign of Sultan Selim II.

After the Ottoman conquest, the city gained new vigour and mosques and other buildings were built to meet the requirements of the new masters. To our day, the city has kept its charm, and stands as an open air museum to centuries of history awaiting to be discovered.

Kyrenia Gate

Old Kyrenia