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In an enchanted Island., London, 1889

Chapter VII. A City of the Crusaders

At night I took to bed with me a number of books about Cyprus, and tried, till my candles burnt down into their sockets, to put together some coherent history of Nicosia. To begin, I gathered that it was a town of immense antiquity; that it was certainly wealthy and populous before the days of Constantine ; that it was then adorned with palaces and beautiful Greek temples; and that gradually side by side with the white Corinthian porticoes rose a splendid crowd of Christian churches and monasteries. When the English crusaders came in their grey armour and seized it, it looked like a vision to their rude European eyes. This happened about 1190. A few years later, under circumstances which I afterwards studied more attentively, and which read exactly like a chapter out of the Waverley novels, it, and Cyprus with it, were handed over to Guy de Lusignan, ex-king of Jerusalem.
This Guy, who when he began life was nothing more than a penniless well-born adventurer, having gained and lost one kingdom, here established another, which took root and nourished for 300 years. Of all dynasties known to European history, the career and the position of this is incomparably the most romantic. It represented more than a mere vanishing conquest. In it the chivalry of the West was rapidly acclimatised to the East, and took, like some transplanted flower, new and unknown colours from it. Its counts and its barons, of French and of English ancestry, settled down over the length and breadth of the island, and kept their feudal state amongst spice-gardens and silken luxury. The peasantry never were displaced, nor was the Greek religion interfered with; but side by side with the plain Greek basilicas rose Gothic churches with windows of elaborate tracery. Marvellous abbeys like Fountains, Bolton, or Kirkstall, in distant nooks hid themselves amongst oleanders; and castles like Alnwick or like Bamborough reared their clustering towers on the mountain-tops. But civilisation there was not merely at home in fortresses. The nobles, like those of Italy, inhabited the towns also; and Nicosia in particular became a city of palaces. Coats of arms familiar to Western heraldry surmounted the street doors, and covered the monuments in the cathedral. The streets in the fourteenth century were alive with gorgeous retinues with ladies on horses, whose housings glanced with jewels, with gold. In some of the households were as many as two hundred retainers. In the markets were the finest wines, and the rarest and most delicate provisions. Ice in the heats of summer was on sale always; and the monopoly of it yielded a handsome revenue to the State. In the jewellers' shops were treasures unrivalled throughout the world, and the rich bazaars exhaled the perfumes of the farthest East. Outside the gates, where the wide plains extended, gay and gallant parties would daily ride out hawking.
Farther off, near the woods where Adonis died, and where the wild boars still roamed, hounds were kept by the nobles, with huntsmen in brilliant liveries; and the notes of the horn were daily sounding amongst the valleys. And surrounding and penetrating this pageant of Western mediaeval life was the local colour and flavour, not only of an alien Christianity, but, stranger still, of old classical paganism. In the recesses of the forests -were still to be seen gleaming the milk-white columns of many a deserted temple, where the old deities were still believed to linger, metamorphosed into saints or demons. The air was haunted with traditions of Venus. Holy hermits praying high in mountain grottos found that the hills were hollow, and that within was the Goddess of the Horsel. This is what I gathered about the island before I went to sleep; and my mind was full of it next morning, when, giving my camera to Scotty, I went out to see what I could photograph. I did not believe and knights in velvet bonnets, and mantles clasped that all my historical impressions were accurate. I thought that nothing accurate would be nearly so pleasing to the imagination. Still I felt that they gave the place the same kind of interest that might have been given to it by an historical novel. What was my delight, then, when passing along some of the alleys, which here and there I recognised as part of the sights of

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