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- Selimiye Mosque ( St Sophia Cathedral
- Great Inn
- Kyrenia Gate
- Dervis Pasa Mansion
- Venetion Column
- The Gamblers Inn
- Arap Ahmet Mosque
- Mevlevi Tekke Museum
- Bedesten ( St Nicholas Church )
- Lusignan House
- Haydar Pasa Mosque ( St. Catherine Cathedral )


The foundation of the city dates back around 2250 years and it is now the capital of the island with a population of around 110000 and was developed mainly during the Lusignan period. The city is divided into Turkish and Greek sectors by a boundary known as the green line which runs in an east - west direction. The ramparts, which were built by the Venetians in 1570 to protect the city from the Turks, are thick and high. They encircle the city and are 4.5km in length with 11 towers. Inside the city walls are numerous remains of the Middle Ages and later periods. Outside the walls are no remains whatsoever of the Middle Ages since materials from building outside of the walls have been used in the restoration of the ramparts at various times. Inside the city walls are beautiful examples of Gothic and Ottoman architectural forms, among which are the Selimiye Mosque (St.Sophia Cathedral), Bedesten (covered bazaar - St. George Cathedral), a Lapidary Museum set in an old Venetian house and an obelisk, while belonging to the Ottoman period are the Arabahmet Mosque, the Buyuk Han (Grand Inn), the Kumarcilar Han (Gamblers' Inn), the Sultan Mahmut II Library, and countless other monuments. Like the other towns of Cyprus which remained under Ottoman rule for more than 300 years, Lefkosa too is typically Turkish in character.


SELIMIYE MOSQUE ( St Sophia Cathedral )
This ancient church is the chief mosque in the northern state of Cyprus, and the great festivals of Bayram and other Moslem gatherings are conducted here. It was formerly the cathedral of St. Sophia which was built in the period 1209 A.D. to 1228, over the ruins of a previous building. Only recently, in 1976, have the ruins of the ancient building before 1200 A.D. been discovered, on the southern side. In style of architecture, St. Sophia resembles the famous mediaeval cathedrals of France.

The church was severely damaged by earthquakes in 1491, 1547 and 1735 A.D. and yet, as we see it today, the cathedral has survived. What is the reason for this? One would expect such high buildings to be razed to the ground during those severe earthquakes that occurred some centuries ago, for in those days, reinforced concrete and steel girders were unknown. The builders of ancient Gothic cathedrals always strived to make them as high as possible, to reach "up to heaven" and so inspire both awe and solemnity. The problem was how to do this, and, at the same time ensure that the walls would not collapse. This was done by building stone pillars outside to support the walls which are known as buttresses. If you live in a "posh" villa in Cyprus, your walls should be supported at the corners by buttresses. If there are none, then get out of the house quickly in the next earthquake.


When you visit the Selimiye mosque, be sure to contact the English speaking guide, Mr. Mehmet Koray, who will be pleased to conduct your round; remember, shoes off, as it is a holy place. You will be shown many mediaeval tombstones that help to date the church. Noteworthy, is that of Arnati Viconti, I347, and that of a Florentine merchant of l380. The interior of the mosque has been brightened up with white, red and yellow candelabra. When the cathedral was converted into a mosque in 1570, a re-arrangement was made to oriental it towards Mecca and not Jerusalem. The granite columns of the interior are Roman, probably from Salamis, and this indicates that there must have been some sort of Byzantine building here before 1200 A.D.

On the south side of the mosque is a Greek church built in the Byzantine and mediaeval styles. It is called The Bedestan, meaning covered market, and this it was, until the municipal market moved to buildings on the other side of the road.

The Bedestan i s now preserved as an ancient monument and the interior has many fallen marble and granite columns, probably Roman, and it shows that the Bedestan was once a much larger church. Looking around the church, one can still see the effects of the severe earthquakes of centuries ago.The guide will show you a vaulted room full of mediaeval tombstones, many having the coats of arms of crusader knights. The best photograph to take is that of the beautifully carved Gothic door on the northern side. It is a good ex ample of French mediaeval stone carving. Quite a mystery is why two such large churches were built so close together.

The two tall minarets of the Selimiye mosque form a very prominent landmark in Nicosia. Coming down from the mountains on the Kyrenia road, and just before reaching Gönyeli, one can pinpoint Nicosia by these twin towers. The next time you fly over Nicosia, you will hardly notice the mosque, but most conspicuous of all are the Venetian encircling walls with their eleven polygonal bastions.

GREAT INN ( Büyük Han )
This is a sixteenth century inn, the name meaning, BIG INN. It is situated in Asmalti street and is classified by the Department of Antiquities as an ancient building.

The view of the khan from the rear, and so much of its appearance is like a grim fortress, that in the old colonial days, the British used this khan as Nicosia Central Prison. Windows were always high up, and small because of marauders (rich merchants at the inn were inevitably a source of great temptation) and in the Middle Ages, glass was very expensive. In the interior courtyard is a picturesque octagonal tower used for prayers and is therefore a miniature mosque or mesdjit, with a picturesque fountain below. Around the court and downstairs are the stables, while the merchants had their bedrooms upstairs.

The building has curious octagonal chimneys; perhaps guests were allowed to have small charcoal braziers in their rooms. In all, about 67 people were accommodated, but without hot water, tv. or electric blankets. The main entrance to the Great Khan is in Asmalti Street, but you would hardly notice it, as it is so cluttered u p with shops and stalls. This inn was built about 1570 A.D. by Muzaffer Pasha, so ít is not a mediaeval building. If you really want to see mediaeval inns, you must go to Tripoli in Lebanon, while in the old Persian towns of Isfahan and Shiraz you can actually see the old customs lingering on. "Caravans" come into the khan yard at night, cook their meals in the open, wash, pray and "bed" down the donkeys for the night. That's the place for a tv. documentary film. For some time the Great Khan was used as a builders' yard, but now all this paraphernalia has been removed and the khan awaits restoration.

KYRENIA GATE ( Girne Kapisi )

The Kyrenia Gate in the North Cyprus is one of the three gates on the walls surrounding the old city of Nicosia. This gate was one of the most important entry-exit points of the city. It is also known as the "Del Providetore Gate" after the architecture Proveditore Francesco Barbaro. The Turks restored the gate in 1821, adding a domed room on top of it. On the panel above the gate there are verses from the Koran. The seal of Mahmut II was placed on the Northern front of the gate in 1820. The cannons in front of the gate transferred by the British for the defence of Acre against Napoleon later fell to the hands of the Turk

DERVIS PASA MANSION ( Dervis Pasa Konagi )
The owner of this two storey mansion built in the 19th century was Dervish Pasha, the publisher of "Zaman" – the first Turkish newspaper in Cyprus. The mansion is in the Arap Ahmet region of Nicosia: this is the region of the walled city which has preserved the fabric of the historical environment most intensely. The mansion has two entrances. On the main entrance, the year 1219 of the Muslim Calendar (1807) is visible. The ground floor has been constructed of stone and the upper floor of sundried brick. The year 1869 is visible on the ornamented ceiling of the main room which is a later addition to the building. The mansion has an ‘L’ shape with a large inner courtyard. The rooms on the ground floor open to terraced pavilions ringing the inner courtyard. A wooden staircase supported by the water reservoir in the courtyard leads to the upper floor where all the doors open to a covered porch. After the restoration work between 1978-88, the mansion was opened as a ‘museum-house or a museum of ethnograpy on 21 March 1988. It includes a main-room, a bride-room, a dining-room, and a section where items of daily use are being exhibited.

VENETIAN COLUMN ( Venedik Sütunu )

The granite column in the Ataturk square was erected by the Venetians in 1550. It used to bear the St. Mark lion. The Ottomans removed the column and left it in the courtyard of the Sarayonu Mosque. The British re-erected the column in its present location in 1915. The grey granite column is thought to have been transported from a temple in Salamis. The insignia of six Italian families can be seen at the bottom of the column. The copper globe at the top is a later addition. The buildings to the West of the Ataturk Square (government buildings) were constructed during the British colonial rule in early 20th century. They therefore have a distinct look. There is a fountain and a platform with the insignia of Britain on the eastern side of the buildings. The platform was constructed to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. The governor of Cyprus announced the coronation from this platform.

THE GAMBLER'S INN ( Kumarcilar Han )
This small building, asymmetrical in plan, of hewn stone, is on Asmaalti Square in Nicosia, to the north-east of the Buyuk Khan. This inn, too, is typical of an Ottoman inner-city commercial inn. Its exact date is uncertain but it is believed to have been built in the 17th century. It is now privately owned. In the past the Gamblers' Inn was also known as the Himarcilar or Kemancilar (violinists' or Fiddlers' Inn) inn. It is two-stroyed, ranged around a courtyard garden and entered through an arched passage from Asmaalti Square.

The main gate is not original and is a late repair. There is a second monumental carved gate inside the passage which is clearly Medieval and not of the Ottoman period, so one concludes that the inn stands on the foundations of a Medieval structure. The irregularly-shaped inner court is surrounded by rooms leading off arcades or galleries on both floors. Though the inn had originally approximately 52 rooms, the number at the present day is 44. On the ground level the galleries have stone floors and wooden beams, with pointed arched opening seated on square shafts. Segmental arched doors lead into the inner rooms. Each room has an embrasure window opening externally. A modern stair in the south-east of the courtyard leads to the upper storey, where the floor is marble. The prentice roof on wooden rafters is covered by ridge tiles. Unlike the lower gallery, the upper one has no arches but instead round columns on which the roof joists are seated. The rooms leading off the galleries have barrel vaults and segmental arched doorways. In some rooms there are fireplaces. Here too the floors are marble, and the outer windows are rectangular. Columns and arches on both floors of the wing to the south are not original, being the result of later repairs. Nor is the western front in an indiscriminate manner, the entrance doors from the courtyard at ground level were closed and external openings were substituted. In spite of these many alterations and the resulting losses, the inn is still a leading example of an old Turkish monument, both in scale and in architecture.

ARAP AHMET MOSQUE ( Arap Ahmet Camii )
The most notable of the mosques built by the Turks in Nicosia is the Arap Ahmet Mosque. The mosque, like many others, was constructed on the site of an old Latin church. Among the marble floor tiles of the mosque are around 25 tombstones with epitaths and drawings. The mosque was named after one of the generals of the Turkish army during the conquest of the island. It is a good example of classical Turkish mosque architecture. It has an arched terrace and a dome six metres in diameter. The garden with graves belonging to Turks have been preserved in good condition. It is a special corner of Nicosia with its fountain, cypress trees and graves. Among the graves is the grave of Kamil Pasha, born in 1832 in Nicosia, who rose to the rank of Grand Vizier in the Ottoman Empire 4 times. Kamil Pasha died in Nicosia in 1913 and was buried in the courtyard of the mosque. In 1927, Sir Ronald Storss, the governor of Cyprus between 1926-1931, had a tomb made for Kamil Pasha with a panel in Turkish and English placed on it.

MEVLEVI TEKKE MUSEUM ( Mevlevi Tekke Müzesi )
The building to the South of the Kyrenia Gate was constructed towards the end of the 16th century by Arap Ahmet Pasha after the conquest of the island by the Ottomans.

The commander of the conquering army, Lala Mustafa Pasha, Arap Ahmet Pasha, and the first kadi and mufti of the island were members of the Mevlevi order (order of dervishes founded by Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi, called also the "whirling dervishes").Inside the building, there are tombs and a semahane (dervish meeting-house for religious music and whirling). Until Ataturk banned the lodges in 1920, it served as a Mevlevi Lodge; its last sheikh or head of the order died in 1954. At the entrance to the lodge there is a headdress, a panel and a fountain.

Sixteen Mevlevi sheiks are buried in the six tombs in the building. The building which constitutes a different aesthetic sight in the city centre is now used as a museum of ethnography.

BEDESTEN ( The St. Nicholas Church )
The building was constructed in the 12th century as a Byzantine church (The St. Nicholas Church). It was later enlarged by some Gothic annexes built by the Lusignans. After some more changes in the Venetian period, the building was given to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis. The building with its different architectural styles is of a hybrid nature. In the Ottoman period, it served as a depot and a market where mostly textile products were sold. The masonry on its northern entrance resembles the masonry on the entrance of the St. Sophia Cathedral.

The mansion from the 15th century, which is situated within the Lefkosa moat (ramparts), has survived to this day and attracts attention by its Gothic arch entrance door with its Lusignan era coat-of-arms as well as the Ottoman era addition of a "kosk" and decorated wooden ceilings. The mansion which has a typical inner courtyard characteristic was built from cut stone and is 2-storied with a roof but the added-on "kosk" (kiosk style) was constructed from lath and plaster.

The upstairs wooden veranda is reached from the ground floor round-stone pillared veranda by a particular stone stairs.The remains of the stone arches (later on filled in), on the east wall of the rectangularly planned inner courtyards, gives the impression that the building had an eastward extension or connection.The mediaeval buildings researcher Camille Enlart speaks about this mansion in his book "Gothic Art and Renaissance in Cyprus". The Austrian Archduke Louis Salvator who visited the island in 1873, in his book, "Lefkosia, The Capital of Cyprus" writes that a Turkish family named "Kalorio Al Efendi" was using this mansion. In 1958, the mansion, which had been used by the Russian Classen family as residence and a weaving workshop, had been bequeathed by them to the Cyprus Government. The mansion, which was emptied (by the local authorities) in the 1980's, had, until then, been partitioned and left for the use of refugees. After the Antiquities and Museums Department's two years arduous restoration work, in December 1997 the mansion will be handed over to the coming generations for the revival of the local weaving craft and for the use of social activities. In the mansion, which has been furnished with authentic furniture of the Lusignan and Ottoman periods, there is also a room for giving service to the visitors.


HAYDARPASA MOSQUE ( St. Catherine Cathedral )
After St. Sophia it is the most notable Lusignan buildings in Nicosia. Historian Sir Harry Luke describes it as the most elegant and perfect Gothic building in Cyprus. The St. Catherine church was built in the fourteenth century and converted into a mosque after the Ottomans gained control of the island. Long, narrow Gothic windows have been placed between the pedestals which get narrower as they approach the ceiling. The top parts of the windows are ornamented with geometic designs. The church has three entrances: the fine masonry of the Gothic south entrance and the carvings of the Lusignan insignias on its frame are notable features. The west entrance is larger with the same architecture; its frame is ornamented with motifs of roses and dragons. The north entrance is comparatively plain. It is ornamented with the pattern of a nude woman holding a fish and dragon like effigies. Inside, there is a chancel, a vestry and a small baptizing pool.

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