"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Orthodox Cyprus Under the Latins

Well do I recall, in October 1993, being jolted out of my ignorance and naivete as a young Canadian unaccustomed to the scars of political violence when I visited Nicosia on Cyprus and saw the militarized border between Cypriot and Turkish claims to the island. I was there for a World Council of Churches conference of which I remember little now except for how hot it was relative to Ottawa, and how I almost didn't make it by developing acute appendicitis six days before I was supposed to leave. Oh, and the food. The food, of course, was wonderful. 

But back to matters at hand: a new book looking at the pivotal role Cyprus plays in the Mediterranean, not least with Crusaders coming from Western Europe to the Middle East and stopping off in various places, and sometimes never leaving, as happened in Cyprus, newly examined by Chrysovalantis Kyriacou, Orthodox Cyprus under the Latins, 1191–1571: Society, Spirituality, and Identities (Lexington Books, 2018), 354pp.
About this book the publisher tells us this:
Medieval and Renaissance Cyprus was a fascinating place of ethnic, cultural, and religious encounters. Following almost nine centuries of Byzantine rule, Cyprus was conquered by the Crusaders in 1191, becoming (until 1571) the most important stronghold of Latin Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean—first under the Frankish dynasty of the Lusignans, and later under the Venetians. Modern historiographical readings of Cypriot identity in medieval and early modern times have been colored by British colonialism, Greek nationalism, and Cyprocentric revisionism. Although these perspectives have offered valuable insights into the historical experience of Latin-ruled Cypriots, they have partially failed to capture the dynamics of noncoercive resistance to domination, and of identity preservation and adaptation. Orthodox Cyprus under the Latins, 1191–1571 readdresses the question of Cypriot identity by focusing on the Greek Cypriots, the island’s largest community during the medieval and early modern period. By bringing together theories from the fields of psychology, social anthropology, and sociology, this study explores continuities and discontinuities in the Byzantine culture and religious tradition of Cyprus, proposing a new methodological framework for a more comprehensive understanding of Cypriot Orthodoxy under Crusader and Venetian rule. A discussion of fresh evidence from hitherto unpublished primary sources enriches this examination, stressing the role of medieval and Renaissance Cyprus as cultural and religious province of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine Orthodox world.

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