Othello Castle , also known as Othello’s Tower, is a castle in Famagusta. It was built by the Lusignans in the 14th century, and was later modified by the Venetians. The castle was named after a Venetian governor in 1506. Shakespeare’s play Othello which is believed to be written in 1603 might have taken its name from this castle.
Othello’s tower was originally built as a moated citadel in order to protect Famagusta’s harbour, and was originally the main entrance to the town. When the Venetians arrived, they greatly strengthened the town’s defences, incorporating the citadel into the main town walls.
The tower was remodelled by the Venetian Captain Nicolo Foscareno in 1492. Above the main entrance, there is a sculpture of the winged lion of St Mark, the patron saint of Venice, along with an inscription crediting Nicoli Foscareno with the renovation.
Take a moment to look at the lion sculpture before you go through the gate. The front paws are on the land, representing Venice’s land power, while the rear paws are in the sea, representing her maritime empire. Below the lion, the entrance door is one of the earliest surviving wooden doors in Cyprus.
The citadel itself, consists of towers with corridors leading to artillery chambers. In times of war they would have allowed soldiers to move quickly from one part of the castle to another. In more peaceful times they would have been used to store things that needed to be kept cool, safe and secure.
In 1566, however, a visitor noted that the castle was no longer being used as a residence, but was being used by the Venetians as a prison.
Around the courtyard are large rooms, the most magnificent of which is the Great Hall or Refectory. At a massive 28 metres long, many believe it is this hall that Shakespeare refers to in his stage instruction quoted above. At one end is a large kitchen, and the whole hall seems somewhat dark, due to the lack of windows. Windows, of course, were unglazed and kept small so no cannon fire could get through! However, the fine limestone vaulting of the ceiling is being gradually eroded eaten away by the salty sea air.
From the northeast tower you can catch a glimpse of the industrial port below, and the ventilation shafts that drop down to Lusignan passages below. The Venetians filled many of these shafts to prevent cannon balls penetrating them, but rumours still persist that these lost chambers may contain hidden treasures, left behind by the Venetians when they surrendered to the Ottomans. Several excavations have been made over the years, but no treasure has been found – yet!