In 1954 I started working for the Antiquities Department during the British Period. Our first Director was an English man, Mr. Meadow. Then, I worked with two Greek Cypriots, Mr. Digio and Mr. Karayorgi. Mr. Mogabgab, a Lebanese-origin Maronite, who was the archaeologist responsible for the Famagusta district. I was transferred to Famagusta upon completing 10 courses, expanding my knowledge and working in Bellapais, Kyrenia Castle and St. Hilarion Castle.
Once I was transferred to Famagusta, I first worked at Famagusta Castle, then in, Salamis Antique City, King’s Tombs, St. Barnabas Monastery (Engomi region) and finally the Museum in Marash.
I participated in the excavations that took place in King’s Tombs in Engomi as well as the Twin Churches in the Walled City of Famagusta. I have expanded my knowledge regarding Famagusta Mosque (also known as Nicholas Cathedral ) as well as other churches in the Walled City. Then I worked until my retirement (in 1989) at our office in Othello Castle.
One day, an elderly Italian couple came to Cyprus and visited the Othello castle in 1965-66. They caught my attention as they were strolling through the information center getting some information about the Castle. They said that they were the descendants of Bragadino lineage. We saw that they had detailed information about Famagusta and Othello.
The Italian couple told us that during the war the Venetian soldiers who died were buried in the area that starts from today’s Othello Gazino until Turk Gucu. They said that Bragadino and his higher rank officials commanded their army from the Venetian Palace that once stood up across the Namik Kemal Square. They then moved to Othello Castle, as it was a safer place to be once the war escalated and the Ottomans intensified their attacks on the city.
Lusignan Kings and Venetian Lords used to live in wealth and luxury before the island was conquered by the Ottomans. Cyprus was the richest island of the Eastern Mediterranean at that time.
Prostitution, wine, timber and copper turned the island into a very attractive spot. At that time, Famagusta was the most famous, liveliest and richest coastal city of Cyprus. Famagusta`s population was 6,000 where as that of Nicosia and Paphos were slightly over 1,000 each and that of Kyrenia and Limassol were less than 1,000 each. Famagusta was known for its slave market, animal and grain markets, dyer's shop, tannery, taverns.
Here are some more figures that demonstrate the wealth of Famagusta. In 1572, 323.250 silver coins was collected for the Ottoman Sultan and 60.000 silver coins was collected for the Flag Officer as tax. (Source: “Ottomans in Cyprus”, by Prof.Dr.M.Akif Erdogdu.)
According to the Italian gentleman, when Bragadino and his commanders realized that they were going to lose the Castle (when they understood that no help would come from Venice or Austria) they hid the Venetian treasure, the war plans which was written on animal leather and his own sword somewhere in Othello Castle.
During the Italian couple’s visit to the Othello Castle, they claimed that the treasure was most probably buried under the floor of the room from which the army was commanded during the war. This room was the first as soon as you turn left once you enter the main door with a lion relief on the top and it was 2 meter-high where the access to it was ensured with steps. In addition, the Italian gentleman claimed that the architect whose name was Mantinengo left his initials, MX, on a carved stone showing the place of the Venetian treasure. This is the only place that is higher than the ground floor.
Again this Italian gentleman claimed that none of the Museums in Turkey or in Europe have any traces or records of Mark Antonio Bragadino’s treasure and sword decorated with precious stones.
Later, the Italian gentleman told me “I will come back” and left. However, he never returned. Maybe because of his age… who knows.
However the Italian couple’s story about the Walled City of Famagusta and Othello Castle remained as a secret to this day.
Source:Ali Eşrefoğlu (Ali Antroner)- January 2010