Lala Mustafa Paşa Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral), Famagusta, Cyprus -


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The City of Famagusta, Cyprus

Lala Mustafa Paşa Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral)

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral) - Famagusta, North CyprusThe cathedral of St. Nicholas / Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque is the largest medieval building in Famagusta and was commenced in 1300 AD. It must be noted that the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages often took more than 100 years to complete, so was St. Nicholas was completed about 1400.

The Gothic style of architecture closely resembles closely the great cathedral of Rheims in Paris, France.

Similarly, St. Sophia Cathedral in Nicosia (now Selimiye Mosque) and Bellapais Abbey all seem to be the work of French architect, and this is understandable when one realises that the Kings of Cyprus from 1190 to 1489 were all of the French Lusignan dynasty who, at least in their churches, "Frenchified" Cyprus.

The main facade of the building is the west front and this is shown in the picture.

The main facade of the building is the west front and this is shown in the picture.

There are three large gabled and canopied doorways as can be seen in the picture, the vast amount of carved stone work being very impressive.

Above the main central door is a large wheel window set in decorative tracery, a common feature of French cathedrals and known asa rose window.Above the main central door is a large wheel window set in decorative tracery, a common feature of French cathedrals and known as a rose window. There is a similar rose window in the refectory hall at the Bellapais Abbey.

The upper parts of the two towers suffered damage during the Ottoman bombardment of 1571 and when the Ottoman Turks captured the town from the Venetians, the cathedral was converted into a Mosque and a minaret was added.

The full name of the building today is the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. In accordance with Muslim religion all images of the human form in stone, fresco, or in stained glass windows were removed or plastered over. However, all aspects of the Gothic tracery have been preserved. the canopied doorways of the west front are typical of French cathedrals.

Lala Mustafa Paşa Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral) - Famagusta, Cyprus  -

No doubt the niches on either side of the porch contained stone statues of Biblical saints as in Notre Dame, Paris. This style of ecclesiastical architecture is known as the "Decorative Period".

The interior is of course a Muslim prayer hall, the floor being covered with carpets, and all visitors must go round with the Imam. The main hall in a church is known as the nave, and here the Lusignans were crowned as kings of Cyprus. 

Interior of the building: Lala Mustafa Paşa Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral) Tradition claims that they also received the crown of Jerusalem, as by about 1350 the Crusaders had failed to take Palestine and so these French knights came to Cyprus to set up a Jerusalem monarchy in exile!

The lancet windows were probably decorated with stained glass but it was unsafe to have wide windows as Cyprus suffers from severe earthquakes. Also because of this, the nave had to be strengthened with flying buttresses. 

In 1571, altars and tombs were swept away and all frescoes were plastered over but the guide will show visitors a few medieval tombs that have survived, in the north aisle.

Related Resources
Photo gallery of the mosque (cathedral) through time
The Cathedral Fig Tree in Famagusta - The oldest living
          thing in Cyprus

From: W. Dreghorn, "Famagusta and Salamis Guide Book",
       K. Rustem & Bro. publishers, London, 1985. now online!




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