St. Sophia Cathedral was built by the Lusignans in the 13th century. It is the oldest and one of the finest examples of Gothic art in North Cyprus. Within, Lusignans Princes were crowned kings of Cyprus. When the Ottoman’s took Cyprus in 1571, they converted the cathedral and because of this, it features a unique mixture of typical medieval gothic church architecture and Muslim adaptations in form of a Mihrab (indication niche towards Mecca) and a mimber (pulpit) and a women’s gallery in the north transept amongst. The cathedral was renamed in 1954 as Selimiye Mosque (cami).
St. Sophia Cathedral
Tip: If you go around the old Cathedral and you will find a small square behind it. There you can suddenly smell fresh coffee… if you follow your nose you find a small Turkish coffee factory… Don’t miss the public market hall to the right of the Cathedral… great place for fresh vegetables, fruits, Turkish delight and much more…
The Venetians started to build new walls in place of the old Lusignan walls ringing the city, so as to be able to defend Nicosia in 1567, just before the conquest of Cyprus by the Ottomans. A famous Venetian engineer named Guilio Savorgnano drew the plans of the walls. The walls have a circumference of three miles, eleven bastions each like a castle, and three gates. The walls consisted of earth ramparts with a stone facing. The names of the gates were: “Porta Del Proveditore – The kyrenia Gate” in the North, “Porta Guiliana – The famagusta Gate” in the East, and “Porta Domenica – The Paphos Gate” in the West. In order to build the walls, the Venetians demolished the houses, palaces, monasteries and churches outside the three-mile circumference of the city and used their stone in the construction of the walls. The bastions were named after the nobilities and other people who contributed to the construction of the walls (Rochas, Loredano, Barbaro). The Venetians were defeated by the Ottomans before they had time to finish the construction of the walls.
Located south of the Kyrenia Gate, this Museum was constructed towards the end of the 16th century by Arap Ahmet Pasa after the conquest of the island by the Ottomans. The commander of the conquering army, Lala Mustafa Pasa, Arap Ahmet Pasa, and the first kadi and mufti of the island were members of the Mevlevi order. 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 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.
The Inn or “Büyük Han” was built by the Mustafa Pasha in 1572. Its function was that of a trade station in which traders could safely store and sell their goods in the downstairs rooms, while the upstairs rooms served as overnight accommodation. The building was recently restored and after its re-opening in 2002 , its 68 rooms have become home to local artists who use these rooms in order to display their paintings, woodworks, lace and other works.
The Great Inn
Tip: Sometimes Friday’s, sometimes Saturday’s shadow play theatre performances take place in one of the upstairs rooms. You are most welcome to watch the performance and have the figures explained to you! Look out for the small cafe downstairs – hidden in its corner, you can usually observe local women preparing local dishes the old fashion way…. always fun to watch and taste!
The Mansion got its name from its previous owner Dervish Pasha, who besides being the last judge of the country also published its first Newspaper “Zaman” (Time). The Mansion was restored to its old former glory. Nowadays it harbours an ethnographical museum, displaying typical artefacts from the Ottoman period.
TIP: Being located in the Arab Ahmet Quarter of Lekoþa, you could stroll from the Dervish Paþa Mansion down the road and have a look at a recently restored section of this quarter, which features lovingly restored old houses dating back to the 18th and 19th century. What an atmosphere! In one of these restored homes you can find a very nice restaurant with a different flair to it. We recommend you visit and have a drink in their courtyard or even a meal.
The Grand Bath was built on the remains of an old Latin church. The bath still functions today. It is evident from its ornamented Gothic style arched doorway and its stone walls that it was built in the Lusignan period. The name of the building was St George of the Latins. A feature of the building is that it is 2-3 meters below road level.
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. Some more changes were made in the Venetian period and the building was given to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis. With its different architectural styles it 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.