British and American Travel Accounts of “Pilgrimages” to Cyprus during the British Occupation

Eroulla Demetriou

Abstract


 

The aim of this article is to highlight the development of the presence of Cyprus in travel books written by American and British travellers during the 1870s, 80s and 90s through to the beginning of the 20th century. During the 1870s, 80s and 90s there were large numbers of well-to-do American and British invalid trav - ellers who journeyed through some European countries (namely Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Italy), North Africa (Egypt) and Eastern countries (Palestine, Syria) in search of their lost health and/or wishing to visit the sites associated with events mentioned in the Bible (especially those from the Acts of the Apostles and more precisely those related to the life and deeds of St Paul). A few of these travellers had their experiences and impressions of the journey published in travel accounts. At first, these travel writers were reluctant to visit the island of Cyprus, even though they were forced to make a stop there (normally at Larnaca) on their way to the Holy Land. However, during the 1880s and 90s, they started to include a more detailed visit of Cyprus and were more generous in describing their accounts of the island’s Biblical highlights in their travel accounts. Some even went so far as to dedicate a whole book to the island and thus promoted it as an obligatory visit within Biblical routes. The Biblical allusions made by most travellers whilst in Cyprus concentrated mostly on St Paul’s missionary preaching and the Christianization of the island in the company of St Barnabas, St Paul’s arrival at Salamis, his martyrdom at Paphos, the conversion of the proconsul Sergius Severis, the first Roman high official to become a Christian, the miracle of the blinding of Elymas, the evil sorcerer, and the discovery of St Barnabas’ tomb. Sometimes they also mentioned a visit to the Greek Church of St Lazarus at Larnaca, where Jesus Christ’s friend was said to have been buried after his second and definitive death, and the monastery of Stavrouni, where St Helena is said to have left a genuine piece of Christ’s Cross. During the 1930’s there was a mild revival of biblical travel accounts on Cyprus thanks mainly to H.V. Morton’s In the Steps of St Paul (1936).


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