EVKAF - The Pious Foundations in Cyprus
Articles by Prof. N. Yildiz, autority on Cypriot Evkaf:
Establishment of Vakifs 
With the conquest of Nicosia, the first Ottoman pious foundations (Vakif/Evkaf) had also been established in Cyprus. St Sophia was registered as a foundation of Selim and several shops, running water, mill-houses and fields were added to this foundation and several farm houses were established to contribute to the mosque with their incomes. Some documents showing expenses and income of the pious foundation during the 1893-94 period give us a hint about the Pious foundations of Selim II. Lala Mustafa Pasha and Sinan Pasha (the second governor of Cyprus). Therefore among these were several shops, storerooms, the Great Inn, and the New Great Inn and the millhouses in Nicosia that can be classified as the foundation of Selim II. Among the pious foundations of Lala Mustafa Pasha were the Great Bath, Ömeriye Bath and Ömeriye Garden, tanners house, water of Balikitre. The Pir Ali Dede Mosque in Limassol and some shops in Famagusta were recorded as the foundations of Sinan Pasha. This document is important to show us that the Great Inn was the foundation of Selim although it is only referred as being constructed by Muzaffer Pasha, the first governor.

Lala Mustafa Pasha had written reports to the Government in Istanbul describing the island and suggesting the possibilities for the reorganisation of the island as a Turkish territory. In the report dealing with Paphos and Kyrenia, he is describing Paphos as a city that has the possibility to grow up since its coastal area is having two natural ports, one of which could harbour 100 ships and the other one might give place to several towers on which they could furnish with 50 canons.

Upon this report, the Government in Istanbul send an Imperial Order dated November 16, 1570 which is registered in the book of Important cases that a mosque and a bath must be constructed in both towns and a safe castle must be built in Paphos and also the walls must be restored immediately.

Another imperial order dated May 13, 1571 gives us the hint of the presence of a medrese, schools in Nicosia before the conquest of the island was completed.

From the documents studied for this research, it has been noticed that priority was given to buildings which would satisfy the needs of the early Turkish settlers. They preferred to make modest buildings that would provide protection and peace to the island rather then constructing large monumental buildings that would show the grandeur of the Sultan. Even the largest mosques, one St. Sophia of Nicosia and the other one the St. Nicholas of Famagusta would always be referred as St. Sophia although they are the pious foundations of Selim II. I was able to see that only in one document, the one in Famagusta is referred to as the Selimiye mosque, although nowadays it is called after the conqueror as Lala Mustafa Pasha.

A document dated June 13, 1571 is rather interesting to show us the traditions of the Ottoman Empire that wherever they captured, they were always respectful to the rights and property of the local people. It is required that three suitable houses must be rented for the accommodation of the Governor, the chief judge and the treasurer within the walls of the city. The rent and the expenses for the restoration must be paid by the governor. Rather then building large palaces or mansion houses, they made use of the existing buildings.

The budget book from the period of Djafer Pasha, the governor dated 1598/99 refers to two Governor's palace, one in Nicosia, the other one in Famagusta.

Several description of the Governor's palace in Nicosia are also present in travel books. This was a palace remained from the Venetian period, but the interior side was completely modified according to the Turkish traditions. According to the descriptions, the rooms exhibited finest wood carvings and Turkish textiles. This was pulled down by the British government at the beginning of this century in order to build the new government buildings.

Some of the existing large buildings that we can classify as mansion houses today are mostly built on the remains of the Venetian buildings. The building restored and used by the Union of the municipalities today is a good example to this kind of Turkish houses. Another fine example is a beautiful Turkish house in Famagusta, the outside walls of which are in Venetian example.

The restoration and building activities carried on in Cyprus following the days of the conquest of the whole island was carried on three main aims: 1- To provide full protection to the island. 2- To provide the necessary peaceful and hygienic conditions to the towns 3- To enable the people to carry on their religious activities with extreme freedom.

The activities to provide the protection of the island were nevertheless the restoration and construction of new castles. The Books called Mühimme which are the records of important cases and the Ruus Books, which are the war records are abounding with several imperial orders dealing with these activities. From one of these we can learn that an architect called Bostan was appointed particularly to the restoration and building of the fortresses upon the application of Muzaffer Pasha, the first governor of Cyprus. Bostan was to do this with a wage of 20 akçe (piasters).

The walls in Nicosia were repaired and the Kyrenia Gate was modified by the addition of a guard room to the top.

These documents also show that part of the fortresses of Famagusta were restored while some parts were reconstructed completely. Following the orders received from the Government in Istanbul Djanbulat bastion was restored from the ground to the top while Akkule Bastion (The Ravelin Old Land Gate) and Dervis Pasha (Halkali Tower or Camposanto Bastion just next to Djanbulat bastion on south-east direction) were constructed by the Turks and these were completed by June 20, 1572. Also, with an order dated August 20, 1572, they started to restore the bridge of the castle.

Although there was a very early order for the restoration of the fortress and construction of a new tower in 1570, we are not sure whether they started to do this project. A document dated March 17, 1574 send to the Governor and treasurer of the island gives the information that they objected to the plan designed for the new tower since it would be rather expensive. This was followed by an order sent to them to start the construction based on the plan prepared, under the supervision of Ahmed who was appointed as the chief commander to the Janissaries in Paphos. The inscription tablet of the Paphos castle also indicate that it was built by Hafiz Ahmed Pasha and completed in 1001 H.( A.D.1592 ). The inscription on the castles of Larnaca and Limassol also show us that they were built by the Turks. The Larnaca castle was completed in 1605.

Many aqueducts, bridges, fountains, inns (caravanserais) , medreses and tekkes were constructed by the Turks. But they were careful to make use of the existing buildings and only in cases where the present buildings are not adequate to answer for the needs of the customs and traditions of the Turks, new ones were constructed.

Probably, the above mentioned Great Inn (Büyük Han) which was amongst vakifs (the pious foundations) of Selim II was one of the largest of all of these buildings. There is almost no other document for more information about this building for the time being. But, an imperial order dated January 9, 1577 sent to the treasurer of Cyprus, and the judge of Nicosia and Gülnar is giving us some information about the construction of a caravanserai or inn in Nicosia. According to the record, the Government in Istanbul was informed that a caravanserai was built in Nicosia by the Governor of the island at the spot where Sultan Selim had built some shops as a part of his foundation that would financially support the mosque, after pulling them down. It is required that the caravanserai must be purchased in the Sultan's name if the income is adequate but otherwise, the caravanserai had to be pulled down and his shops must be reconstructed on the same plan. Great Inn in Lefkosa is under restoration today, while Gamblers' Inn is open to visitors.

Water was taken to Nicosia after the conquest. 25,800 akça (piaster) was given for the construction of the aqueducts from the first year budget of the island. The order dated April 17, 1572, saying that water that was taken to the outskirts of Nicosia must be carried to the mosque as well, is reminding us the possibility that the fountain of the mosque at the entrance facing the Bedesten building was also constructed during the same year.

Another document is giving us the date of construction of the Haydar Pasha fountain. Haydar Agha, the commander of the Volunteer soldiers was given a permission to build a fountain next to the mosque that he had restored and converted from a church into a mosque recently by the imperial order dated December 6, 1573.

Another fountain that can be dated is the fountain of Djafer Pasha in Famagusta. We have the original inscription tablet of the fountain today while the fountain itself is a later construction on the same spot of the original one which was pulled down. The date on the fountain is 1597. Also, the Vakfiye, the records of his pious foundations mention about the fountain and a bath he had built as well as his other buildings including the aqueducts that carried water to Famagusta. The fountain built by Ali Ruhi Efendi in 19th century is one of the best examples.

In the later years, several other fountains were added and aqueducts were constructed by the Turks to carry water to the cities. The 16th century aqueducts in Lapta built by Haydar Pasha and 18th century Aqueducts of Bekir Pasha and the Arif Pasha Aqueducts, that little information is known about them can be given as examples to our lecture.

Although there is no document to show the construction of the earliest Turkish bath in Cyprus for the time being, the letter of the Governor concerning Paphos and Kyrenia saying that baths must be constructed both in Paphos and Kyrenia, is reminding us that there was possibly a Bath in Nicosia then, from the earlier days. And in fact, since the pious foundation document we mentioned above belonging to the end of 19th century gave us the information that Great Bath and Ömeriye Baths were the foundations of Lala Mustafa Pasha, it is possible that they were constructed in the first and second year of the conquest.

A letter written by the kadi of Nicosia and Kyrenia dated 17 October, 1573 is telling the desire of Ahmet Bey, The Principal of Alanya to built a bath in Kyrenia, outside the castle, on the coast since there is no bath for the use of the true Moslems.

Another letter written to the teacher of Semaniye called Mevlana Pir Mehmed and to the judge of Nicosia on May 1578 is a good document to show us the presence of a medrese called Dar'ül Hedaya ( "The Presented School) built by Sultan Selim II as a pious foundation.

As for the libraries, the best example today is from the beginning of 19th century. This is the library of Mahmud II. It is one of the prettiest example of the Turkish architecture on the island. There is no other building at the moment that we can classify as library. However, we know that a library called Muradiye which was established within St. Sophia Mosque by Murad III, son of Selim II and developed in later periods together with the names of several other libraries.

Together with the new Ottoman buildings the existing monuments particularly the Latin buildings were used for several purposes. St. Nicholas Church, which was supposed to be the Orthodox centre during the Latin period in the St. Sofia market place, was modified to be used as a bedesten "closed market where they sell the luxurious merchandise" in May, 1579. According to some documents of the court register books there were some more closed markets in Cyprus and these were usually called suk. An engraving published in The Illustrated London News in 1878 depicts another closed market (Bedesten) in Larnaca with Turkish people in their traditional costumes.

Another document dated May 25 1579 is about an imperial order that a mint house must be built in Cyprus. The document says that there are several Venetian coins which are not used at the moment. Therefore a mint house must be established for the melting and minting of fresh coins.

For the religious purposes, primarily as we mentioned above they made use of the Latin churches by converting them into mosques. St.Sophia, which is called today as Selimiye Mosque, Haydarpasha Mosque which was St. Catherina Church, Ömeriye Mosque which was St. Augustine in Nicosia and in Famagusta St. Nicholas Cathedral which is today called Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque and St. Peter and St .Paul church which is called Sinan Pasha today are the examples to these early mosques. The interiors of these buildings had been furnished with altar, pulpits and other necessary items and the windows which were supposed to have stain glass decorations depicting bible scenes were replaced with simple glass and geometrical traceries. Thus, we have a new synthesis for this Gothic architecture with these new additions.

In addition to these, a masjid or a small mosque was built to the top of the entrance gate of the palace during the first years of the conquest in Nicosia. Also, we learn from the memories of Caleppio, a Venetian that was published in 1573 that the Turks had built a small mosque on the bastion of Bayraktar. The inscription tablet of the Akkule masjid gives us the date of its construction as 1619.

The Governor of Cyprus had sent a letter to the Sultan to enquire his wishes for the number of minarets to be built to the mosques in Nicosia and Famagusta that are lacking of any minarets then . Soon after an imperial order dated May 1, 1572 gives the order that two minarets must be built to the one in Nicosia, and one minaret to be built to the mosque in Famagusta. In later years, new mosques were constructed in Cyprus by the Turks. Arabahmet Mosque in Nicosia, Hala Sultan Mosque in Larnaca can be considered as the best examples of the Turkish mosque architecture in Cyprus.

A census held in Nicosia in 1723, 150 years later then the conquest, gives us a good information that 4000 houses, 16 quarters, 2 large mosques, 2 mosques, 14 mescids (smaller mosques which is used for daily praying except the Friday and Bairam praying) 3 medreses (schools), 4 tekkes, 5 baths, 31 fountains and 6 libraries were present within this city.

The information about the Turkish architecture in Cyprus can be obtained from the existing inscription tablets and the travel books written by the foreigners as well as the archival sources.

But sometimes, the inscriptions found on the monuments are leading us to mistake as we had seen with the example of the fountain built by Djafer Pasha in Famagusta. Thus, precise information can be obtained by comparing the existing information with the land record books.

There are several examples of traditional Turkish houses almost in every part of Cyprus. Dervish Pasha Mansion is a 19th century house which is arranged as an ethnographical museum today.

The following picture reflects Turkish houses in Tanzimat Street in Nicosia.

  • Morvaridi, B., (1993), Social Structure and Social Change, in Dodd, C., (ed.), (1993), The Political, Social, and Economic Development of Northern Cyprus, Eothen Press, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.

Chronological History