GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus
Translated from the Italian by Claude Delaval Cobham, C.M.G.,
at the University Press, 1909
Concerning the port and town of the Salines.
The port of the Salines in the south of the island is the general anchorage for vessels of every nation, not only because it is the best to be found in all the kingdom of Cyprus, but also because it is the nearest to Larnaca, the city which has the greatest trade in all the island.
On the shore is a town called also town of the Salines, whose length is greater than its breadth. It contains a fort built by the Turks in 1625, armed with several good pieces of artillery which bear the arms of the republic of Venice. It is a wretched building, and almost in ruins on the sea side; it has however a guard of Janissaries, and its Disdar or Commandant. It is square without any bastion. Now its principal use seems to be to fire salutes to the war vessels of the Christian Powers, and to return those of the Grand Signora.
A little way from the fort is a Khan, or barrack, which is like a convent for monks, with its various rooms where are received all foreigners who have not their own places of abode, and here they can stay as long as they will at a small expense. Near it is the bazar or market, where are sold eatables, clothes, cloth and so on for men's use. It is the best market of the whole island, and business and sales are the greatest, because all the ships from Syria come here for their provisions, prices, especially of eatables, being moderate. In the shops too are found all kinds of European goods.
Near the bazar is the custom-house, over which is a Turkish agha or gentleman, who is looked upon here as the Customs officer, but really he is a mere deputy of the Chief Collector of the island, who lives in Nicosia.
The merchants are chiefly in this town, where they keep their goods, particularly cotton and wool.
The Greek Christians have here, on the land side of the town, an ancient church of three aisles, dedicated to St. Lazarus, who was, they say, bishop of Cyprus, and in a chapel on the right as you enter, going down a short stair, you are shown a sepulchre hollowed out of the rock in which they believe the body of the saint lay. The Greeks throng to it very devoutly, and insist that the body was carried off to Venice. The church originally belonged to the Latin clergy. It was taken from them under an order of the Grand Signor, but they always preserve a right to the side chapel on the left, and twice a year in token of their right the Fathers of Terra Santa go to celebrate the Holy Mysteries there. Within the church there is nothing remarkable, except the pulpit of marble, supported on the emblems of the four evangelists well carved, as well at least as suits the Gothic style in which the rest of the church is built. The font too is worth a look, though it is simple and without ornament. It had four shields of arms which have been hacked away by the Greeks, in their hatred for every little memorial of the Latins which may be found in churches of their rite.
The Greeks baptise by immersion, but use in Cyprus many ceremonies not prescribed in their rituals. They rarely confer this sacrament before the eighth day after birth. A Latin who wished to join their communion must be rebaptised, just as they would rebaptise a Greek who had become a Catholic, and then wished again to return to their church.
The screen which divides the choir from the Sancta Sanctorum, in this church of St Lazarus, as in all churches of the Greek rite, is made of wood carved and gilded, and adorned with various pictures of saints, painted on wood, as the Greeks must not adore any figure in relief which represents our Lord, or the Virgin Mary or the saints.
In every Greek church is an episcopal throne, which stands at the entrance of the choir, but always on the left side (in cornu epistolae). These seats are made of wood, with carved foliage, and inlaid with mother of pearl and tortoise-shell, but in St. Lazarus is a very ancient throne, transported there from another church; many foreign visitors have remarked on the perfection of its carving, but it is in no wise esteemed by the Greeks, who have lost all taste and all notion of the beautiful.
Outside the church is the cemetery of Protestant strangers. There are many tombs, especially of Englishmen, adorned with marble.
Not far from the church of St Lazarus the Turks have a small modern mosque. And near it is a bath open to persons of all classes.
The drinking water of the town is most excellent It comes from an abundant spring in the village of Arpera, which is divided just outside Larnaca, part of it supplying that town, The aqueducts, which are carried on stone arches of good construction, are the work of the last Pasha who ruled the island, and are still kept in good order, a duty which the inhabitants of the district owe to the said Pasha, who not only helped them with the plan and its execution, but also left them a certain income, for the repair of the aqueducts when they might threaten to fall or had actually fallen. His wishes are most faithfully observed, for the matter is one of universal interest