Crowned Lion of St Mark (Kingdom of Cyprus) with the tower of Famagusta Castle (Famagusta)
The history of Cyprus, particularly since the 12th century, has made this island a remarkable crossroads of different cultures. First during the Crusades, then under the House of Lusignan – the French dynasty that governed the island between 1192 and 1489 – and finally during the Venetian period (1489-1571), the local Greek tradition and Orthodox Church coexisted with Latin rulers, alternating moments of dialogue or even osmosis with episodes of open conflict. In virtue of these centuries-old bonds and of its close relationship with the Near East (Syria, Palestine), Cyprus boasts a unique history in the eastern Mediterranean, concretely witnessed by artistic and architectural masterpieces, as well as by the many manuscripts that were either produced on the island or passed through it.
Venice played a leading role in this unique history, first through the protectorate it established over the island and then through the integration of the province of Cyprus into the Stato da Mar. Evidence of this is provided by the wealth of documents preserved in the city’s archives and by the history of numerous Venetian families, which is inextricably linked with that of Cyprus.
The exhibition Cyprus in the Marciana Library of Venice: Manuscripts, Texts, and Maps is designed to showcase the Marciana Library’s collection of manuscripts and books, which is variously connected to the island of Cyprus. With the support of Italian and international experts and scholars, who have contributed to its catalogue, the exhibition offers the scholarly community and the public at large an itinerary that brings together forty-odd manuscripts and maps from the Library, some of which have only recently been identified as being of Cypriot origin or provenance.
The itinerary illustrates different aspects of Cyprus’ cultural history and of its contacts with Venice. It begins with manuscripts of historical works recounting the island’s history in the Byzantine age and with collections of juridical texts providing valuable information about the Latin governance of Cyprus. It continues with philosophical, medical, and religious manuscripts that help reconstruct the cultural climate of the island and its unique trajectory within the Byzantine world. After presenting a selection of displays that bear witness to the existence of a book market along the Venice-Cyprus axis, the exhibit itinerary focuses on a set of codices – either produced in Venice or owned by Venetian scholars – that preserve oracular texts illustrating the liveliness of the debate on the fate of the eastern lands in the years of the Ottoman conquest (1571). The following section is devoted to codices with works by Cypriot authors who were active within the broader framework of the Byzantine Empire. The exhibition is rounded off by maps illustrating the representation and perception of the island by 16th- and 17th-century geographers
Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Str. app. 20, f. 1r
Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Gr. VII, 16, f. 1r