‘Travels round Cyprus Part 2’

So, to continue my ‘rosette hunt’ round Cyprus. If you had joined me on the first part of this particular journey, you will remember that I had arrived back in North Nicosia having travelled from the coast at Kyrenia. I hope you enjoyed the visit to the Medieval Lapidary Museum and you’ll continue to join me while I look at the vast numbers of rosettes on the façade of two former churches in the northern sector of Nicosia.

Looking first at what is now the Selemiye Mosque, having formerly been St. Sophia Cathedral. This building is the largest and oldest surving Gothic church in Cyprus, and was possibly built on the site of a previous Byzantine church.

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The basic structure of the building , as you can perhaps see on these photos, still retains its original architectural elements – the main changes to the outside of the building since becoming a mosque are the addition of a minaret and the stained glass windows have been replaced by the stone ‘rosette’ inserts into the original tracery of the windows.


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Obviously there are more changes to the inside of the building but, although I was able to visit the prayer room, I couldn’t take any photographs there.

Across a small side street from the mosque is another church building which has been repurposed. Being known now as The Bedestan, the building was originally built as St Nicholas Church.



You may notice that the exterior is very similar to that of the former St Sophia Cathedral but then they are only metres apart from each other. As St Nicholas Church, the building combined both 6th Century Byzantine and 14th Century Gothic architectural characteristics.


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During the period of Ottoman rule, the church became a covered market, The Bedestan. The principal doorway into the building which is highly decorated as you can see here is claimed to be the most important element of the church.

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Restoration of the building between 2004 and 2009 won the Europa Nostra Award from the European Union for cultural heritage.

Clearly, both the former St Sophia Cathedral and St Nicholas Church have much in common in the iconography of their exterior decoration, but as I have just described to you, they are both of a similar age, and also built very close togther, so perhaps this similarity is not surprising.

Just before we leave North Nicosia to return to the Greek sector, we can have a quick look at the outside of a typical Turkish Bath, the Büyük Hamam.


Unfortunately it was closed when I was there so couldn’t see the inside, but I’ve heard that it is quite luxurious. The Büyük Hamam was built on the site of a 14th century Lusignan church, the entrance being retained in the current structure – I’m sure that you can again see the similarities to the entrances of the Selemiye Mosque and The Bedestan. Perhaps unusually, the building is now several metres below the level of the road.

So, crossing now back into South Nicosia, I am going to head right down to the south coast of Cyprus with a visit to the medieval castle and museum at Limassol. The castle itself is located near the old harbour – a new marina has recently been opened – in the historic part of the town of Limassol. The existing castle was rebuilt under Ottoman rule around 1590, although the original construction is believed to date to the early 12th century, and is claimed to be the site where Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre, crowning her as Queen of England.

For those of you interested in gravestones, there are a huge number of examples here – many with quite unusual iconographical elements. I’ve added a selection of them here:

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From left to right: Gravestone from 15th century Augustinian order church in Nicosia; Tombstone from Church of Ayios Andronikos in Kythrea dated 1556; and 16th century tombstone of Ioannis Petaloudis from Nicosia.


Tombstone of  Heyde de Vis dated 1350 from Augustinian order church in Nicosia.

The shield shown on this photo is that of the Cornaro family. Catherine Cornaro, a Venetian noblewomen became Queen of Cyprus when she married King James II of Cyprus in 1468. The rosette motif is depicted on many of these family emblems.


Amongst the various tomb and grave stones, the castle holds what remains of an ornate stone sarcophagus belonging to Adam de Antiochia, the Marshall of Cyprus in 14th century. The lid of the sarcophagus, shown here, is beautifully carved with rosettes and other motifs, and is still in remarkable condition.



There is also a link between this visit to Limassol Castle and the earlier visit to Selemiye Mosque in North Nicosia – this photo shows casts in the castle which were taken from the original 14th century doorways of the former St Sophia Cathedral.



Continuing through the various rooms on several levels – including the dungeons – of the castle, there are numerous architectural elements, all bearing rosette motifs, collected from buildings all over Cyprus.

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So, I’m going to finish this part of my Cypriot journey here in Limassol – I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience. If you want to see more artefacts from the island bearing rosette motifs, I’ll be posting a further collection of images from Limassol Archaeology Museum; Larnaca Fort Medieval Museum; Leventis Museum, Nicosia; and from the grounds of The Cyprus Museum, Nicosia on my Facebook ‘The Rosette Lady’ page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Rosette-Lady/757705117678393?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Hope you can join me again soon in my search for the rosette.



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