The introduction of Christianity to Cyprus was the most important event during the early period of the Roman rule. On his first missionary journey it 45 A.D. Paul accompanied by Barnabas, a Cypriot, and Mark landed at Salamis and preached there the new religion to the Jewish synagogue. After this they crossed Cyprus preaching the new religion and reached Paphos, the capital, where the most sensational event occurred, the conversion to Christianity of the proconsul Sergius Paulus, whereupon Saul was renamed Paul. For the first time a Roman noble occupying an important public position accepted the new religion. The spreading of Christianity, however, was not an easy task as the Greek pagans and the Jews, who had been settled since the time of Ptolemy I, were attached to their old religion. The conversion to Christianity was completed by the beginning of the fifth century through the great ecclesiastical figures of the time, St. Barnabas, Heracledius, Mnason, Lazarus, Spyridon of Tremithus, Trifillios of Ledra, Philon of Karpasia, Tychon of Amathus and Epiphanios of Constantia.
On the laying of the foundations of the Byzantine empire in 330 A.D. Cyprus became a province of the Orient under the Comes Orientis, whose seat was at Antioch. Cyprus received. special attention and protection from the emperors of Byzantium and the mother of Constantine the Great, St. Helena, visited Cyprus and established christian churches including the monastery of Stavrovouni where according to tradition she left pieces of the cross upon which Christ was crucified.
When Cyprus was politically attached to Antioch an attempt was made by its Patriarch to put the Church of Cyprus under his control but this was successfully resisted by the Cypriot bishops at the Third Oecumenical Synod at Ephesus in 431 A.D. New claims were raised later by the Church of Antioch but when Archbishop Anthemios presented Emperor Zeno (498 A.D.) with a copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel, which was found in the tomb of St. Barnabas and was believed to have been placed there by St. Mark, the Emperor, recognized the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus and conferred on its Archbishop the imperial privileges: to hold a scepter instead of a pastoral staff, to wear a purple mantle and to sign in red ink. A final resolution settling the question of the autocephaly of the Greek -Orthodox Church of Cyprus was taken by the Quini-Sext or Trullan Oecumenical Synod at Constantinople in 692 A.D.
When Cyprus was a byzantine province, the Arabs, who had accepted the new religion of Islam, raided at intervals Cyprus from the seventh to the tenth centuries and caused great destruction.
But the Arabs never made an organized attempt to occupy Cyprus and their activities.. were limited to looting and taking prisoners.
The last episode in the history of Cyprus as a province of the Byzantine empire occurred at the time of Isaac Comnenos, who usurped by deceit the office of ruler of Cyprus (1184 A.D.). The king of England Richard Coeur de Lion was on his way to the Holy Land as one of the leaders of the Third Crusade, but his fleet was scattered by a storm and the ship carrying his fiance Berengaria and his sister Joanna, Queen of Sicily, was forced to take refuge in the bay of Limassol. Isaac tried to entice the two women to land in order to hold them for ransom but Richard arrived in time and eventually expelled Isaac Comnenos from his office.
The period of the Byzantine rule in Cyprus came thus to an end.
Throughout the Byzantine period the Greek character of Cyprus was preserved in all its manifestations.
The rule of Richard Coeur de Lion lasted very shortly. He sold Cyprus to the Order of the Knight Templars against payment of 40,000 gold besants. But the Knight Templars, facing the resistance of the Cypriots, asked Richard Coeur de Lion to return the money and take back Cyprus. Richard was too pleased to sell Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, for 100,000 besants thus making a profit of 60,000 besants after returning the 40,000 to the Knight Templars.
Cyprus became then a Frankish Kingdom. The Lusignans ruled Cyprus for about three hundred years (1192-1489) on the feudal system, all privileges belonging to the nobles whilst the people was oppressed without any participation in the administration of their own country. The history of Cyprus under the Lusignan rule is essentially the history of the royal court in Cyprus and not a history of the people of Cyprus.
The system of administration was foreign to the Greek population of Cyprus and all political power was vested and exercised by the ruling class of Franks.
The legislation during the Lusignan period was the one contained in the Assizes of Cyprus, written in the then spoken Cypriot language, which was based on the Assizes of Jerusalem and contained the feudal law though the influence of Byzantine and Greek law is manifest.
During the Frankish period the Greek Orthodox Church was in a state of persecution as the Latin Church was trying to subjugate it.
In the dynasty of Lusignans there were rulers such as Hugh Il I and Henry II in the thirteenth century and Hugh IV and Peter I in the fourteenth century who contributed to the stability and financial prosperity of the island. It is remarkable that Peter I foresaw the danger from the Turks and tried, though unsuccessfully, to unite the European countries against them.
The last Queen of the Lusignan dynasty Catherine Cornaro ceded Cyprus to Venice in 1489, when the Lusignan domination of Cyprus ended.
Three centuries of foreign rule failed to destroy the Greek language of the people, their religion and their cultural Greek beliefs.
The Venetian occupation of Cyprus (1489-1570) had a purely military, purpose that of defending the Venetian interests from any dangers that might come from Egypt and the Turks. All authority was now vested in the Council of Venice, who every two years were sending a Proveditor to govern the island. In governing Cyprus Venice was looking after her own interests and the well being of the inhabitants was utterly neglected.
The Turks, who had captured Constantinople in 1453, invaded Cyprus with a powerful army in 1570 and, in spite of the defense put up by the Venetians, they captured Nicosia in the same year and in 1571 Famagusta fell after an heroic resistance of the Venetian commander Marcantonio Bragadino. After the capture of Nicosia, but especially after the fall of Famagusta, unprecedented acts of atrocities followed, property was looted and most of the important Christian Churches, such as St. Sophia and St. Catherine in Nicosia and St. Nicholas in Famagusta, were converted to moslem mosques and remained as such to this date.