Arsenal (Martinengo Bastion) in Famagusta, North Cyprus.
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Arsenal (Martinengo Bastion)


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The Arsenal at Famagusta, North Cyprus (Martinengo Bastion)

The Martinengo Bastion stand at the corner of the north and west city walls of Famagusta in Northern Cyprus, part of the impressive Venetian defences built to keep out the Ottoman invaders. Shorter and stouter than other bastions at Famagusta, this Bastion was part of the ring of defensive measures that kept the Ottoman at bay for an impressive eight months during the siege of 1571.

Named after a Venetian commander in North Cyprus, the Martinengo Bastion alone covers one square mile, a massive structure. Its position one the northwest corner is slightly unusual; it neither faces the sea nor the main gate, but perhaps was constructed to resist any forces which had landed further up the coast.

The Martinengo Bastion at Famagusta was designed by an Italian engineer named San Micheli, and its arrow-head shape was deliberate, to allow cannon fire from both sides of the tower. The biggest guns in the Venetian arsenal of artillery were based here, hence the name. Inside, passageways lead down to the gun positions, each with a smoke hole in the ceiling to clear the suffocating smoke produced by the cannons.

The Martinengo Bastion lies within a military zone which covers a section of the north of Famagusta's walled old city, and which is currently occupied by the military. While you can visit churches within this military zone, it is not possible to see inside the Martinengo Bastion at the present time. So, instead, go down into the moat and admire it from there. From here, you can see why the Ottoman commanders wisely decided not to attack this well fortified bastion, and concentrate instead on other weaker parts of Famagusta's defenses.

However, the Arsenal had one more important role to play long after the Ottomans were gone. In the dangerous days of July 1974, two thousand Turkish Cypriots hid from bombs in the passages of the Martinengo bastion, until they were liberated by Turkish Cypriot forces, one day before the ceasefire.