Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Skyline of Nicosia

Although the new skyline of Nicosia is exploding upward and sprawling outward from the historic core as we speak, the minarets and bell towers remain the most recognizable monuments and way-finding elements within the city walls. Most of the monuments in Nicosia, especially religious monuments have undergone numerous alterations as the capital has changed hands. Each bell tower and minaret has its own story and many have been used for centuries to distinguish between neighborhoods within the walls. Let’s hope the Archbishop doesn’t build the proposed neo-Byzantine monstrosity near his palace.

Looking down upon the Arablar Mosque (originally a chapel) and the Phaneromeni Church.
Minaret of Arablar Mosque (originally Our Lady of Tyre Convent)
Bell tower of Phaneromeni Chruch
Bell tower of the Catholic Church. The church exists within the Buffer Zone but still functions and is entered through south Nicosia. Here it is seen over a barrier in north Nicosia.
Minaret of Fethimiye Mosque
Venetian Column
Minaret of New (Yeni) Mosque
Bell tower of St. Trypiotis Church. The masonry difference between the church and the bell tower shows that it was added or altered at a later date than the original construction.
Minaret of Taht-el-Kala Mosque
Bell tower of St. Savvas Church
Bell tower of St. Luke Church in north Nicosia, now occupied and used as a furniture shop
Bell tower of St. Antonios Church
Minaret of Omeriye Mosque (originally Church of St. Mary of the Augustinians)
Bell tower of St. John Cathedral (Archbishop Chrysostomos is allegedly embarrassed to bring guests to this cathedral because of its age and smaller size... It is one of the oldest Cathedrals in the city). 
Minaret of Haidarpasha Mosque (originally Church of St. Catherine)
Belfry of St. Kassianos Church
Minaret of Bayraktar Mosque
Belfry of Chrysaliniotissa Church
Minaret of Arabahmet Mosque

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo of the Day - "Phaneromeni Windmill"

Windmill within near Phaneromeni church. The base is surrounded by a vine that recently bloomed.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Photo of the Day - "Toxic Barrel"

Barrel used in a barricade line during the violent summer of 1974. This particular barrel turned flower pot is along the wall of an abandoned shop along the southern edge of the Green Line in the Old City.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Destroying the Moat

As my grant period comes to an end I am in the process of writing a paper on my analysis of the moat surrounding the walls of Nicosia as a unifying landscape and monument that could be helped tremendously by a rehabilitation and management plan. However the moat is changing continuously, especially along the southern edge of the city, as the existing parkways and bridges that were recently redesigned are now under construction.

The following pictures were taken only two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon near Eleftheria (Freedom) square where a large population of female Asian immigrants gathered and spent their afternoon. Notice that much of the space, especially the shaded areas, are being used by the women as picnic areas and that the trees and flowers are in full bloom.

However, in an attempt to bridge the contemporary central business district with the historic walled city, the square was opened to a design competition for redesign. The plans designed by the firm of famous architect Zaha Hadid were selected in 2005 as the winners of the competition which is only now beginning to be realized in preparation for Cyprus' role as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in June 2012. Delay in development of the plan has been the result of public backlash against the design and also due to archaeological excavations that have uncovered a lower part of the bastion that was altered during the colonial period as well as human remains that are thought to have been dumped in the moat by the Ottoman army following their siege of the city in 1570.

The project calls for the transplant or removal of over 200 trees and includes plans to pour hundreds of cubic feet of concrete into a historic monument to create an unshaded public space in a place that reaches temperatures upwards of 100 degrees for most of the summer. Also notice in the rendering provided on her website that the buildings inside and outside of the iconic city walls are presented exactly the same so as to blur the line of what is the historic and contemporary settlement, which is a main objective of her design.

If you have a minute, I also suggest you check out this rendered video of what the site will look like. I guess the bubbles over the square are to protect from the outrageous heat in Nicosia during the summer.

Well the destruction began just the other day when they completely cleared out the same portion of the moat that I showed in the above photos.

One of the only positive assets I can see in the plan is that it will draw more attention to the moat and the walls as a monument of the historic city center. Unfortunately, this has been done through the displacement of the life that existed within the moat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Neighborhood Changes

The following images follow the restoration of the market in my neighborhood over the past few months.

(11 Jan. 2011) - Previous layer of plaster was chiseled off the stone below.
(3 Feb. 2011) - All existing stone was re-pointed, the shutters where replaced, and a stone facade covering the lower portion of the facade was added.
(19 Feb. 2011) - A new coat of plaster was then placed over the upper part of the facade without finished stone.

(12 May 2011) - Finished product

A worker blasting away at the stone surrounding the front door which was later replaced.
Placing a new layer of cut stone along the lower portion of the facade.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Photo of the Day - "Hostel Painting Finished"


Now that the scaffolding is gone from the exterior and the courtyard I can step back and appreciate how much nicer the hostel looks! I can almost forgive the constant interruptions I had to deal with over the past few months while they were working!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photo of the Day - "Excited Homeowner"

Meet Stelios. He is the new owner of the house he is standing in front of with the blue door located just down the block from my hostel in the Old City. Obviously he's excited about his new property!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nicosia’s East-West Spine: A Transformation from the Pediaios River to Ermou Street to the Buffer Zone

Before the Venetian walls that encircle the capital today, there was a larger fortification system that surrounded the city. The ancient Pediaios River made up the east-west axis through the center of the medieval city walls and the city began to develop along its banks. When the Venetians tightened the perimeter of the city to the “Walled City” we see today, they continued this axis by placing two of the three original gates at each end (Paphos and Famagusta Gate. Although the Venetians attempted to reroute the river through the moat surrounding the city walls, we have record of the river flooding along its ancient path as late as the early 19th century. After the British filled in the old river bed due to the unsanitary conditions it was causing, the former course of the river was redeveloped into the main commercial corridor of the capital along Ermou and Pafos streets.

However, those shops lie abandoned today within or along the edge of the Buffer Zone, also known as the Green Line. The fortunate storefronts that weren’t included within the ceasefire line are used as light industrial workshops, very low quality housing, and a red light district.

Shops along Ermou Street on the east side of Nicosia. Most buildings are abandoned or reused as metal- or wood-working shops. This street is blocked off to the left of this image where a guard post is located. No photos of that post are allowed.

Facade of an old shop that has become a workshop.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Traveler's Account of Nicosia: "Travelling Artists in Cyprus: 1700-1960" by Rita Severis

The following painting by Tristran Ellis and description from Rita Severis in her book Travelling Artists in Cyprus: 1700-1960 portray the moat immediately outside the iconic Venetian fortification of Nicosia. It has transformed from one of the three original gates to the city into an outdoor theater area and sculpture park.

·      "In the panoramic watercolour of ‘The Walls of Nicosia’, in which a string of camels plods away from the city and a British officer on his horse supervises work in the arid land outside the walls, Ellis was primarily concerned with the atmospheric effects. A couple of simple huts and a minaret are the only buildings visible inside the fortifications, and the city walls recede towards the distant mountains. The use of colour is limited, giving greater emphasis to the light. Local red and blue tints pick out features and bright expanses of wash for the mountains accentuate their uneven height with the five-finger peaks dominating the centre. The landscape is dusty, the stillness suggesting a dazzlingly hot day in the desert. The British officer as the colonial master, a few local workmen, the ancient wall and bastion – these elements place the painting in an imperial context and within the sequence of successive colonizations of Cyprus – Lusignan, Venetian, Ottoman, and British." (R. Severis)

Severis, R. 2000. Travelling Artists in Cyprus: 1700-1960. London: Philip Wilson Publishers.

A Traveler's Account of Nicosia: John Thomson, 1878 (cont.)

More comparison photos from John Thomson's visit in 1878:

Channel Squadron Gate, Nicosia

"Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, stands in the centre of the island, on the Plain of the Mesorea, four hundred feet above the sea. It is connected with Larnaca by a carriage-road, which has recently been repaired and rendered available for an omnibus that piles daily between the fort and the capital. This road runs direct to the Channel Squadron Gate (so named by British blue-jackets when they took possession).
The wall and gates are strongly built of stone, and are in good preservation, although traces of neglect and decay are to be met with everywhere around. The moslems, as a military people, have made languid and fitful attempts to keep the ramparts in repair, while within the walls they appear to have left nothing worth the cost of a siege.
The air was tainted close to the gateway, for animals were being slaughtered in an enclosed space hard by. The poor, make-shift abodes in the immediate neighborhood are strangely at variance with relics of the ancient magnificence of Nicosia; and the motley crowd that now-a-days passes to and fro through the massive archway, would form a striking contrast to the chivalrous bands that followed in the train of the Lusignan Princes when the town became a royal residence.
A writer of the fourteenth century states that the nobility of Cyprus were, at that time, the richest in the world. But they have passed away, and their wealth and fame are almost forgotten. What of their descendants? The writer heard a poor muleteer (a man of the fine physique and courtly bearing) boast that he was a descendant of one of the most noble families of Cyprus." (Thomson, 11)

On the Ramparts, Nicosia

"It is doubtful whether the ramparts here depicted formed originally a part of the substantial fortifications constructed by the venetians in olden days and still surrounding the town. The pierced wall looks flimsy, and its weakness and insufficiently have evidently been at one time concealed beneath a coating of plaster. For all that, the multitude of empty, harmless embrasures present a formidable front, when we view it from the plain.
Strong as these old battlements undoubtedly are – battlements which, in 1570, enabled the Venetians to withstand a seven weeks’ siege – they would hardly bear the brunt of a bombardment for as many hours by modern artillery. The road from Nicosia may be seen winding across the plain and disappearing over an eminence. The land on both sides of this road was once famed for its fertility, and yet, although it is still most productive, only a patch of the ground here and there is under cultivation. Vast tracts lie fallow, overgrown by thistles, shrubs, and stunted herbage, and affording fodder to flocks of sheep and goats. However, these tracts, as they supply pasturage, can hardly be called waste land. And a few years hence may become the richest farms in the Levant." (Thomson, 16)

Thomson, J. 1985 (1878). Through Cyprus with the Camera in the Autumn of 1878: Volumes 1 and 2. Trigraph Ltd. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Traveler's Account of Nicosia: John Thomson, 1878

John Thomson arrived the year the British arrived on the island (1878) with a camera. He published his photographic journal of his travels in a book called Through Cyprus with the Camera in the Autumn of 1878. I have taken comparison photographs to a few that he included in his book along with the description he provides for each during his visit:

St. Sophia, Nicosia

"The Cathedral of St. Sophia, now used as a mosque, is a noble edifice, which carries one back to the period of the Lusignan princes, whose mutilated monuments may be seen within its walls. The lofty, pillared interior is approached through three arched portals, richly sculptured and pointed. These portals have escaped the rough usage which has wrecked other parts of the building, and (as may be gathered from the photograph) the finely-sculptured windows have also been preserved. But as for the splendid interior, it has lost its rich decorations; and its carved work and pillars are now daubed with gaudy-coloured paint, or with a whitewash which possibly typifies the purity of the faith of the Prophet.
It is fortunate that Moslem economy, or, perhaps, a lack of fanatical zeal, has preserved to use so much of this fine specimen of early Gothic architecture. The tower, which once crowned the edifice has given place to galleried minarets; the old sonorous summons of the cathedral bell has been exchanged for muezzins, which each morning and evening call the faithful to prayer." (Thomson, 14)

St. Nicholas, Nicosia

"Hard by the Cathedral of St. Sophia stands a church once dedicated to St. Nicholas but now used as a granary, whose richly sculpted portal, the subject of this photograph, is one of the finest examples of its kind to be found in Cyprus. Nicosia, when at the height of its prosperity in the fourteenth century, boasted no less than two hundred and fifty chapels and churches; but the work of demolition has since been so successfully pursued, that only two of three edifices now remain to testify to the wealth once lavished on their building and decoration.
In strolling through the town, one may readily perceive that the churches, very shortly after the Turkish conquest, were used as quarries, and long continued to supply building materials to generations of Cypriotes. When these resources became at last exhausted, as no labour was forthcoming to procure stone in the hills, the islanders fell back upon the old sun-dried brick which figures so largely in the ramshackle architecture of the capital. What could be more striking than the contrast of the two such styles as have been presented face to face in this picture? The one Gothic, the other Turk mud-ine if we may so denominate it! In the latter case, however, nature was made the most of the projecting rafters, and the roof is garnished with curious herbage. Beyond, in the distance, is a mound of debris. Many such mounds are to be met with during an hour’s march through the streets and lanes of Nicosia, and the nature of their contents, when some inquiring spirit shall one day open them, will throw light, if not on the early history of the capital, at any rate on the sanitary condition of the locality." (Thomson, 15)

Thomson, J. 1985 (1878). Through Cyprus with the Camera in the Autumn of 1878: Volumes 1 and 2. Trigraph Ltd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Traveler's Account of Nicosia: Lawrence Durrell, 1953-6

In a previous post, I mentioned the famed British writer Lawrence Durrell who spent three years on the island immediately prior to the movement against the British control over Cyprus in the late 1950’s. Durrell lived in a small village called Bellapaix, near Kyrenia, among Cypriots in an attempt to “experience [the island] through its people rather than its landscape, to enjoy the sensation of sharing a common life with the humble villagers of the place” (52). The following is one of his only mentions in detail of his time spent within the Walled City of Nicosia: 

Back across the Mesaoria, the hot barren plain with the single fortress lying in the middle—its roads radiating out from all directions, starfish-wise, Nicosia was merely a crude echo of the sea-dazzling city we had left [Famagusta]; and its current associations so qualified its own very different beauties that I had often to refresh myself in the knowledge of it by taking solitary walks along the ancient bastions or through the crowded markets. Sitting in the long grass among the spiked and abandoned British guns on the Kyrenia wall, I would watch the Turkish children flying their coloured kites in the quick fresh evening wind which ushers in the summer twilights of the capital” (164).

A child playing near the "Kyrenia wall" of Nicosia
Durrell, L. 1957. Bitter Lemons. London: Faber and Faber.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Traveler's Account of Nicosia: Archduke Salvator of Austria, 1881

I've already mentioned his account in a previous post, but Archduke Salvator of Austria describes his first impressions of Nicosia (Levkosia) so beautifully that i had to post them again for the sake of my traveler series:

"When, after passing a pleasant range of hills, Levkosia first bursts upon the sight, with her slender palms and minarets, seated in a desert plain, a chain of picturesque mountains as the background, it is like a dream of the Arabian Nights realized – a bouquet of orange gardens and palm trees in a country without verdure, an oasis encircled with walls framed by human hands...

An oasis of palms at the Hala Sultan Tekke near Larnaca

... Great is the contrast between the town and its surroundings, and greater still between the objects within the city. There are Venetian fortifications by the side of Gothic edifices surmounted by the Crescent, on antique Classic soil. Turks, Greeks, and Armenians, dwell intermingled, bitter enemies at heart, and united solely by their love for the hand of their birth. (Salvator, 9)

View of Zahra Street in north Nicosia

Salvator, L. 1983 (1881). Levkosia: The Capital of Cyprus. London: Trigraph.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Traveler's Account of Nicosia: Richard Pococke, 1738

This is the first installment of a new series of posts that record the first impressions of travelers in Nicosia over the last few centuries.

"From this place [Chyterea] we travelled to the southwest to Nicosia. I went to the house of the consul’s broker, and was also recommended to the dragoman of the mosolem; both of them assisted me in seeing that city, which is towards the west end of the plain, and is supposed to be the old Tremitus; it is the capital of Cyprus, where the mosolem or governor resides; it is fortified with very large ramparts, but has no foffee(?), and consequently is a very indifferent fortification; the ramparts are faced with the hewn stone of the old walls; the circumference of them is about two miles...

Point of one of the 11 heart or arrow-shaped bastions that surround the Walled City of Nicosia.

... The walls of the ancient city, which were built with semicircular towers, may be traced all around, and they seem not to have been much less than four miles in compass. There are still remaining in the city several very magnificent houses, which are of the times of the kings of Cyprus; some of them have been repaired by the Venetians, according to the rules of modern architecture; and there is a most beautiful Corinthian door-case of a house which, they say, belonged to the Venetian general. The cathedral church, now a mosque, is a large building, and exceeds that of Famagusta in the front, as much as it falls short of it in other respects; there was also a church here dedicated to the holy cross, and another of the Augustinians, which are now mosques...

The "cathedral church" mentioned above, formerly known as St. Sofia Cathedral is now Selimiye Mosque

... The Greeks have several new built churches in the city, and the Latin fathers of the convent of the holy sepulcher at Jerusalem have a small convent. Though there are very few Armenians yet they have possession of an ancient church here. There is a great manufacture of cotton stuffs, particularly of very fine dimities, and also half satins of a coarse fort; they have here the best water in Cyprus brought by an aqueduct from the mountains."

Pococke, R. 1745. A Description of the East, and Some other Countries. Vol. II Part I. Observations on Palaestine or the Hold Land, Syria, Mesopotamia, Cyprus, and Candia. Chapt. IV. Of Nicosia, Gerines, Lapta, and Soli: 221-2