Traces of the past and the tumultuous history of Cyprus dot the land, creating an amalgam of traditions, stories, architecture, art, and culture. This is a land where medieval knights, kings, queens, cardinals, merchants, orthodox bishops, and farmers once walked the same streets and breathed the same air. This amazing and colorful crowd left its mark on enduring traditions and the island’s surviving medieval buildings and art.
A visit to the Castle of Lemesos (Limassol), which today houses the Medieval Museum of Cyprus, will give you a sense of the flair of the crowd that roamed the land in medieval times. The Castle is linked to a well-known royal wedding, that of Richard the Lionheart and Berengaria.
In 1185, Berengaria was given the fief of Monreal by her father. Eleanor of Aquitaine promoted the engagement of Berengaria to her son, Richard the Lionheart. An alliance with Navarre meant protection for the southern borders of Eleanor’s Duchy of Aquitaine and would create better relations with neighboring Castile, whose queen was a sister of Richard.
Richard had Berengaria brought to him by his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Because Richard was already on the Third Crusade, having wasted no time in setting off after his coronation, the two women had a long and difficult journey to catch up with him. They arrived at Messina, in Sicily, during Lent (when the marriage could not take place) in 1191 and were joined by Richard’s sister Joan, the widowed queen of Sicily. Berengaria was left in Joan’s custody. The two ladies boarded a ship and set off to find Richard.
En route to the Holy Land, the ship carrying Berengaria and Joan ran aground off the coast of Cyprus, and they were threatened by the island’s ruler, Isaac Comnenus. Richard came to their rescue, captured the island, and overthrew Comnenus. Berengaria married Richard the Lionheart on May 12th, 1191, in the Chapel of St. George, located within the Castle of Lemesos (Limassol), and was crowned the same day by the archbishop of Bordeaux and bishops of Évreux and Bayonne.
Berengaria is known as “the only English queen never to have set foot in the country” since this was the first time a Queen of England was crowned outside the borders of the country.
Rumor has it that a sumptuous meal followed the marriage and coronation ceremonies. The guests were offered some of the grapes for which the island was famous. When Richard the Lionheart tasted the grapes, he said they were “very good,” so the name stuck with this table grape variety which, since then, has been known as verigo, from the words “very good”.
Try the verigo grapes and rest assured that their unique flavor will leave you feeling like royalty!
The Castle of Lemesos (Limassol), site of Richard the Lionheart’s wedding
The Medieval Museum of Cyprus has a vast array of artifacts
The very good verigo grapes
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