Kyrenia (mod. Kyreneia, Cyprus) was a harbor town and castle in the kingdom of Cyprus. During the Lusignan (1192-1489) and Venetian (1489-1570) periods it functioned chiefly as a place of refuge and detention, for the castle, never taken by assault, could be supplied by sea and so was able to withstand long sieges.
During the civil war of 1228-1233 the imperialists held out there for ten months against the pro-Ibelin faction, surrendering only after Genoese galleys prevented supplies from reaching them from Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon). During the Genoese invasion of 1373-1374 Queen Eleanor and James of Lusignan successfully withstood a siege lasting from January to March 1374, which was lifted following an armistice. During the civil war of 1460-1464 between the supporters of Queen Charlotte and those of her brother James II, Kyrenia endured a siege of four years; the Hospitallers supplied the queen’s supporters by sea, and only in 1464 did the garrison surrender on account of starvation.
The dungeons of the castle were also used as a prison— for example, in 1316 for some of the Templars and knights who had rebelled against King Henry II following his restoration in 1310. In 1349 King Hugh IV imprisoned his sons Peter and John there for secretly departing for western Europe against his wishes, and Peter was released only after the intervention of Pope Clement VI. During the Mamlūk invasion of 1426 Cardinal Hugh of Lusignan and members of the royal family took refuge in the castle following the defeat of King Janus at Khirokitia.
The town of Kyrenia never developed into a major center and had only 800 inhabitants at the end of the Venetian period, but it enjoyed limited trade and pilgrim traffic with the Anatolian coast opposite. The Venetians strengthened the fortifications of the castle considerably during the sixteenth century, but it surrendered in September 1570 to the invading Ottomans without resistance shortly after the fall of Nicosia.