The rule of the Knights Templar in Cyprus was an unhappy affair that sparked a revolt by local people against the knights – who responded in turn with a wholesale massacre.
Back in 1192, the Knights Templar were in control of Cyprus having bought it a year earlier from Richard the Lionheart. He in turn had taken it from the Byzantine empire.
King Richard was busy trying to defend the mainland crusader states and so when the Templars offered to buy it off him, he seized the chance. And of course the Templars had the money to make good on the deal. They were not only first class soldiers – but also first class bankers.
But nobody asked the local Cypriots if they wanted to be ruled by the Templars.
And the locals soon got weary of these warrior monks – cum – bankers running their island. There weren’t many Templars present, as few as twenty according to some accounts. The islanders had spent centuries staving off Saracen attacks plus they were religiously and culturally more affiliated to Constantinople than Rome.
Add to that the Templars would have been trying to recoup their investment quite aggressively by extracting whatever wealth they could from Cyprus. Templar books needed to be balanced in order to pay for crusading in outremer. Needless to say, these Latin Christian crusaders soon outstayed their welcome.
Things turn very nasty between the Knights Templar and Cyprus
Concerned at rumblings of revolt, the Templars retreated within their garrison. There were reports that the Cypriots were planning to massacre the knights on Easter Day, 1192. So, after regaining their courage, the Templars stormed out of their castle and embarked on a wholesale massacre of anybody they met. This isn’t exactly the finest hour in the history of the Knights Templar – but it happened.
The killing quelled the rebellion and an uneasy peace returned. But shortly afterwards, the Templars sold Cyprus on to Guy de Lusignan – who you will recall from the movie Kingdom of Heaven – had just lost the kingdom of Jerusalem to Saladin and his Saracen armies. So he needed somewhere to rule.
Here is Guy de Lusignan fighting Balian in the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven.