Paphos castle in the course of time: the fortress, the prison, the salt warehouse, and finally the emblem of the city.
The Castle of Paphos is located on the edge of the Paphos harbour and it was built during the Byzantine period to protect the harbour and to replace the Byzantine castle of “Saranta Kolonon” (“Forty Columns”). It was destroyed in the earthquake of 1222 to be rebuilt by the Lusignan rulers in the 13th century. Moreover, it was dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 during the Ottoman invasion. When they conquered the island, the Ottomans restored and strengthened it by adding new fortifications. The restoration is stated on an inscription on top of the entrance of the castle. The remains of a tower built at the same period when the castle was constructed are found on the same side of the harbour. Throughout the ages the castle has seen many uses. It has served as a fortress, a prison and even a warehouse for salt during the British occupation of the island.
The Paphos Castle is a small fort built entirely of limestones. It has very small windows and just one entrance on the east wing. The main part of the castle is basically a big square tower surrounded by an enclosed courtyard. The ground floor consists of a central hall with small rooms which were used as prison cells during the Ottoman Rule. Beneath the ground floor, there are two underground prison cells where the convicts who served long sentence were locked in. The central hall served as a mosque and the other rooms accommodated members of the Turkish guard. On the roof there are 12 battlements which had a corresponding number of cannons. The Ottomans removed the cannons in 1878, when they handed over the administration of the island to the British.
Today, the castle is used for hosting cultural events every year. Many festivals take place in front of the castle, such the “Aphrodite Festival” in September. The “Aphrodite Festival” was established in 1999 and now is one of the most popular events in Cyprus. Participaring in this annual festival are famous opera performances from all over the world directed by famous artists who usually use the castle as part of the stage. Verdi’s La Traviata and Aida, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s Turandot are some of the opera shows that have been performed during the festival. The castle square is transformed into a large outdoor stage that attracts a thousand of opera fans to this magnificent festival. In 2019, the curtains opened and presented the delightful “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella) by the famous Italian director Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) with the co-production of the French lyrical organisation “Ramfis Productions Avignon” and the participation of “Cyprus Symphony Orchestra”.
The castle was declared an ancient monument in 1935 and since then the Department of Antiquities has taken measures to maintain it. From time to time archaeological excavations take place to investigate its past. The castle represents one of the most distinctive landmarks of the city of Paphos. It is a reference point and a tourist attraction with the surrounding area providing many taverns and cafes for the visitors’ convenience and leisure. The site is open daily from 08:30 - 17:00 for the period between September 16 – April 15, and from 08:30 - 19:30 between April 16 – September 15.