Limassol (mod. Lemesos, Cyprus) was a port and bishopric of the kingdom of Cyprus. It had been the chief harbor town of the island during the Byzantine period and remained important under Frankish and Venetian rule, although it was surpassed by Famagusta in commercial importance by the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Venetian merchants were active in Limassol from 1126 onward, following the commercial concessions granted to them in Cyprus by the Byzantine emperor John II Komnenos. Following the Latin conquest of the island by King Richard I of England in 1191 during the Third Crusade (1189-1192), Limassol retained its position as the leading port of Cyprus up to the end of the thirteenth century, and the Pisans, Genoese, and Venetians all had organized merchant communities resident in the town. Venetian properties in Limassol, including a church dedicated to St. Mark, were recorded in the Venetian report of 1243/1244, which listed Venetian properties throughout Cyprus following their confiscation by the Lusig- nan Crown for reasons not yet established. The Venetian properties and commercial privileges mentioned in a treaty of 1306 were reconfirmed in 1328 and 1360, while the Pisan consul in Limassol continued to represent the Pisans throughout Cyprus even in the early fourteenth century. The Genoese also secured important properties and commercial privileges in Limassol and elsewhere in Cyprus under the terms of the treaty of 1232, which were reconfirmed in 1363 and 1365.
Limassol was also strategically important in the thirteenth century as a supply center during the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) and as a base for the forces of the Crusade of King Louis IX of France against Egypt (1248-1254). Two Muslim raids directed against Limassol in 1220-1221 and 1271 likewise testify to the town’s strategic significance, and it was one of the four bishoprics of the Latin Church of Cyprus established under Pope Celestine III in 1196.
Limassol exported agricultural produce such as wheat, pulses, wine, carobs, and sugar and served as a transit port for spices, cotton, and textiles. The salt lake south of the town contained marketable deposits and a royal fish farm, and the hinterland contained carob trees, orchards, vineyards, and sugar plantations. Salt was a royal monopoly, and sugar was cultivated on estates owned by the crown, the Hospitallers (the largest landowners in the diocese after 1312), and the Venetian Cornaro family.
Limassol also benefited as a stopover for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land, and there was a hostel in the town for them. Despite suffering from periodic floods, earthquakes, plagues, Mamlûkraids, and piratical attacks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Limassol retained some commercial importance. However, the Venetians, who ruled the island from 1489, neglected the town’s fortifications, and the Ottomans captured it in 1570 without difficulty.