What I Saw

02 Dec 2022

Michael de Vezin, of French origin, was for sixteen years His Britannic Majesty's Consul for Aleppo and Cyprus.

Michael de Vezin, of French origin, was for sixteen years His Britannic Majesty's Consul for Aleppo and Cyprus. He died at Larnaca in 1792, aged 51.

While in Cyprus he wrote a short leaflet about the island.

Cyprus is the largest island, Sicily excepted, in the Mediterranean. It is about 200 English miles long, its greatest breadth is 70, and its circuit 480: its soil is very fertile. It is divided into four Provinces, and these again into sixteen Districts: the former are called Paphos, Amathusa, Lapitho and Salamina.

The Turkish inhabitants are reckoned at about 60,000: the Greeks are now not more than 20,000 though in earlier days their number far exceeded that of the Turks. But the oppressive taxes constantly imposed on them, and the incredible contributions exacted from them, caused a great emigration of Christians. There are also Maronites and Armenians, but in very small numbers. No Jews at all: under no pretext are they allowed to settle in the island, and even those who only pass through it must provide themselves with good pass-ports from the Consul of some Christian nation in whose dominions they are tolerated. Altogether Cyprus has rather more than 80,000 inhabitants.

Nicosia or Levcosia is the capital of the whole island. It lies almost in the middle of it, in the province Lapitho, and is the seat of a Greek Archbishop, entirely independent of the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose income, which is free of all taxes, amounts to 30,000 piastres a year. He has three suffragan bishops, one at Cherigno, one at Larnaca, and the third at Baffo or Paphos, whose joint incomes amount to 60,000 piastres. It is also the seat of Government.

Cyprus is administered by a Musellim or Governor (Vice-Pasha) who is also Muhassil or Receiver General of the Grand Signer's revenues, and lives at Nicosia, where all the higher courts hold their sittings. Usually he would be changed every year, but Haji Baqi Agha, who was raised to this dignity by the influence of the Archbishop and his friends, held it several years, until in 1784 dissension arose between him and the bishops about the traffic carried on by them and their relations to the detriment of his own. The Archbishop and his suffragans travelled in all haste to Constantinople, there to seek help. The Governor was in fact recalled, but the whole affair cost the bishops so much money that up to this day, as they pretend, they have been unable to pay the debts they then incurred.

The 'What I saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP Cyprus and Active Citizens Fund.

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