Girne Castle has a confusing architectural history, having been adapted, destroyed, rebuilt and improved so many times. The Byzantines first built a castle here, perhaps on the remains of an earlier structure, in the tenth century AD. Rectangular in shape, it was reinforced and extended during the Lusignan era, with the addition of living quarters and a moat. Its present form took shape under the Venetians in the sixteenth century, with the addition of the west and south walls and the construction of three new bastions. The British used the castle as a prison and as a police academy, and, during the late 1950s, to incarcerate EOKA fighters.
Never taken by force (though it was almost destroyed by the Genoese in 1373), the castle did succumb to the Ottomans in 1570. It is said that the Venetian commander of the castle negotiated a truce with the Ottomans until it became clear how the siege of Nicosia turned out. When the Ottomans presented him with the severed head of his Nicosian counterpart, he promptly surrendered.