WALLED AMMOCHOSTOS (FAMAGUSTA)
IMPORTANT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS IN OCCUPIED CYPRUS
A. Cathedral of Saint Nicholas
The impressive Latin Cathedral of St. Nicholas is situated within the walls of Ammochostos and it is a 14th century building. Architecturally, it follows the plan of the Reims (France) Cathedral. It is in this building that the Frankish kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem were crowned.
Ammochostos: St. Nicholas Cathedral
The church is divided into three aisles with two rows of six cylindrical columns which flank the central aisle. The aisles end in polygonal apses and there are two square towers flanking the façade. The elegant façade in the west has three elaborately carved porticoes. On the upper part of the façade a large pointed window is decorated with carved floral motifs. In the south and the north wall the windows are simple openings with pointed ends.
The building’s is covered with pointed domes formed by pointed groin vaults which begin from the building’s columns. The Cathedral’s interior was originally adorned with wall paintings that were destroyed by the Ottomans when the building was turned into a mosque in 1571 (Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque) and was thus completely whitewashed. During the same period the sculptures which decorated the building’s interior were also destroyed (e.g. the sculptures that existed in the recesses of the main entrance and those protruding from the windows of the upper floor of the two towers). Traces of wall paintings survive on the north wall (St. George on horseback) and on the apse (Crucifixion). The cathedral also preserves fragments of stained glass in the south aisle.
In the second half of the 14th century two chapels were erected (north and south side). In the 16th century a rectangular room covered with groin vaults was built in the south side of the cathedral’s yard.
Ammochostos: St. Nicholas Cathedral,
B. The Church of Saint George of the Greeks
The Church of Saint George of the Greeks in occupied Ammochostos is the largest Frankish Orthodox church in Cyprus measuring 37,5 X 20,5 m. It is dated with some certainty to the second half of the 14th century.
Ammochostos: St. George of the Greeks
The building is an interesting example of a Greek Orthodox church with French Gothic architectural features. Unfortunately all that is left of the building are its east end – its central and side apses with their pointed domes- the nave’s south wall and the lower part of the west end. The church is built with square sandstone blocks and it is thee-aisled with two rows of columns. The dome sits on the square space formed by the second and the third column of each row and the building has groin vaults. In the east the three aisles end in semi-circular apses. The roof has supporting pillars that bear the weight of the building’s central aisle. The church’s windows are simple and pointed whilst the entrances are adorned with carved relief decoration.
C. The Latin Church of Apostles Peter and Paul
The interior of the church was adorned with wall paintings but most of them were destroyed after the dome and the upper part of the building collapsed. Some fragments survive in the apses (depicting the figures of saints) but are exposed to the elements and are severely weathered.
Attached to the church’s south side is the ruined small church dedicated to Saint Symeon. This church was possibly Ammochostos’ Orthodox cathedral during the 13th century. The church was built towards the end of the 12th century and it is a cruciform domed building. The church must have had a narthex originally. In the 13th century a single-aisled domed church was added to the south of St. Symeon.
Ammochostos: Latin Church
of Apostles Peter and Paul
The large church of Apostles Peter and Paul was built during the reign of Peter I (1358 – 1369). It has a central aisle and two side-aisles. At its east end is a central semi-circular apse and two side chapels. The structure combines Byzantine apses with gothic pointed arches. Architecturally the building is plain and its interior is not extensively decorated. The church’s north entrance however is richly carved and its decoration follows early gothic motifs (vine leaves, fruit, angels, etc.). The church was not destroyed by the canon fire of the Ottoman conquest and it was the second church in Ammochostos (after the cathedral of St. Nicholas) to be turned into a mosque. During the British colonial period the building was used as barn for storing wheat.
D. The Church of Saint George of the Latins
The Church of Saint George of the Latins is situated in the northeastern part of occupied Ammochostos and is in a ruinous state of preservation. The church however still preserves its northern half, the lower section of the apse and a part of its south side, enough evidence to demonstrate that this building is an impressive example of Gothic architecture with excellent masonry, compact proportions and rich stone carving decoration. The church is dated to the end of the 13th century and it is a single-aisled building with four groin vaults which are supported by a grouping of three thin columns located in the north and south walls.
Ammochostos: St. George of the Latins
The church has some impressive gargoyles depicting human figures and winged dragons. A small conch adorned with richly decorated pediments is formed in the church’s apse and was probably used to receive a sculpture.
E. Church of Saint George Exorinos (of the Nestorians)
This church is identified with the Nestorian church that was built in Ammochostos slightly before 1360. The Nestorians of Cyprus (that arrived in Ammochostos mainly after the fall of Acre in 1291) were mainly merchants and they were Ammochostos’ richest class.
Ammochostos: St. George Exorinos (of the Nestorians)
F. The Church and Monastery of St. Francis.
The building was initially single-aisled with a hemispherical apse. Its main area was covered with groin vaults and the apse with a half dome. The church is plain as far as decoration is concerned and it brings out harmony and simplicity. At a later stage two more aisles were added to the church and two pointed arches were opened in the north and south walls so that the aisles could communicate.
The church is adorned with wall painting most of which have been badly damaged since at some point in time the church was used as a stable. The few surviving wall paintings depict standing saints with Syrian inscriptions (a feature which indicates that the building was probably a Nestorian church). According to Machairas (the Cypriot chronicler who lived during the mid 14th – mid 15th century) the Nestorian church was built by one of the Lacha brothers who were rich merchants living in Ammochostos.
This ecclesiastical complex is possibly dated to the beginning of the 14th century. The church is a simple single-aisled building with an apse. At a later stage part of the church’s northern side was used as Ottoman baths. The monastery used to stand to the northwest of the church.
G. The Templar and Knights’ churches
H. The Church of Saint Nicholas
These are two plain, single-aisled, small churches built parallel to each other. Even though we do not know their exact date of construction, it seems that the Templar church (the north one) is the earlier of the two. The Knights’ church has a shield with the Knights of the Order of Saint John’s coat of arms (Knights Hospitaller). It seems that at the beginning of the 14th century the Templar church was given to the Knights of the Order of Saint John who built their owns church parallel to it.
Ammochostos: St. Nicholas Church
The orthodox church of Saint Nicholas is located in the orthodox section of Ammochostos, very close to the church of Saint George of the Greeks and the church of Agia Zone. The church is dated to the 15th century and it follows the Byzantine architectural style with no gothic characteristics. It is a two-aisled building with two small domes. The church’s interior used to be decorated with wall paintings, none of which survive today.
I. The Church of Agia Zone
Ammochostos: Agia Zone Church
The Church of Agia Zone is situated in the orthodox section of Ammochostos. The building dates to the beginning of the 15th century and it is a small building with a dome and a cross-shaped plan. The church’s interior used to be wall painted.
J. The Church of Saint Anna.
Ammochostos: Saint Anna Church
The Church of Saint Anna is situated in a military zone near the Martinengo bastion. The building dates to the 14th century, is single-aisled and presents gothic features of southern France. The church used to have wall paintings and it bears many inscriptions.
K. The Church of Saint Mary (Armenian Church)
The Church of Saint Mary was built by the Armenians in the middle of the 14th century and it is located in the northwestern part of town, near the Martinengo bastion (currently a military zone). The building is simple and small with an apse, a narthex and one aisle. The church’s interior still preserves some wall paintings and Armenian inscriptions.
L. The Carmelite Church
The Carmelite Church is located close to the Martinengo bastion in Ammochostos’ military zone. It is a gothic building with two chapels and one aisle which contains various tombs. It seems that the tomb of Carmelite Peter Thomas, who was the Pope’s representative and the Patriarch of Constantinople and who died in Ammochostos in 1366 (and was then named as a saint) was inside this church. The church was wall painted.
M. The Royal Palace (Palazzo del Proveditore)
This building is situated in the heart of the walled town, opposite the cathedral of Saint Nicholas. It is probable that the original building was a royal palace of the Lusignans, built in the 13th century. During the Venetian period it was used as the official residence of the Venetian Proveditori (governors). The building underwent major renovations and additions throughout the 16th century and characteristics of the Renaissance period replaced Gothic features. With the Ottoman siege of Ammochostos in 1571 the palace suffered greatly from bombardment and was left in a ruinous state.
The building has a large rectangular courtyard and the surviving buildings surrounding it are: the entrance with the guards’ rooms, a section of the east wing and the old chapel which is the only part of the Lusignian palace that survives. During the 19th century sections of the rest of the wings still stood and there were arches in the courtyard. The palace’s entrance is in the east wing and its façade, which dates to the Venetian period, has three semicircular arches flanked by four granite columns brought from the archaeological ruins of Salamis.
Ammochostos: Marble decoration on the Othello Tower
The medieval town of Ammochostos is surrounded by substantial walls with 15 bastions and other fortifications. The walls that have an almost trapezoidal ground plan, have a total circumference of approximately 3,5 km and a maximum height of 15 m. The fortifications protect the medieval harbor in the east. The walled town is also surrounded by a deep moat that used to fill up with sea water. From travellers’ accounts we know that the town was probably fortified from the beginning of the 13th century and during the Frankish period they were greatly reinforced. The fortifications were strengthened further by the Venetians, especially during the years 1540 – 1570 when they were preparing the Ottoman attack. The fortifications that survive today mainly belong to the 16th century and were constructed for the defense of the town against the expected Ottoman siege.
Some of the most important sections of the fortifications are:
The Othello Tower: originally this citadel dates to the 14th century. It is a square castle with a round tower in each corner. It originally had a second floor which was pulled down in 1492. Above the gate there is a walled marble slab bearing a relief of the Venetian winged lion and an inscription mentioning Nicolo Fuscarini, the Venetian captain that redesigned the fort in 1492. The citadel is encircled by a moat and is detached from the rest of the fortifications. Inside its main room the coats of arms of the kingdom of Jerusalem still survive. A pier protecting the harbor began from this citadel.
Ammochostos: Othello Tower
Ravelin Bastion: This bastion protects the Land Gate (or Lemesos Gate) which is the only entrance to the town from the island’s interior. This 16th century monumental bastion that stands before the entrance is 36 ft high and was an important stronghold for the town of Ammochostos. Inside the bastion there are four coats of arms belonging to the Order of the Sword. During the Ottoman siege this bastion suffered many attacks and was severely damaged.
Martinengo Bastion: This bastion is one of the finest examples of military architecture and it is not by chance that the Ottomans did not attempt a serious attack against it. It was named after a Venetian commander, Ercole Martinengo who repaired Ammochostos’ fortifications. The bastion forms a pentagon and its main characteristic is its elevated part (cavalier) with the large platform for the canons.
Porta Del Mare (The Sea Gate): This gate was built in 1496 by Nicolao Prioli, one of Ammochostos’ Venetian generals. The entrance façade bears a marble slab with a winged lion (Venice’s emblem) in relief and Nicolao Prioli’s name and coat of arms. The iron entrance which opened and closed with the use of chains was erected by the Venetians but the wooden doors were an Ottoman addition.