Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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WILLIAM DREGHORN. The Antiquities of Turkish Nicosia


In I 565, military engineers from Venice began preparations for the defense of he town by artillery, for at this time the old castles of the Lusignian period were of no use against cannon. The city was reduced in size, for the new walls with their eleven bastions were given a three mile circuit. All the nld castles and intervening spaces were demolished to provide a free field of fire for the artillery on the ramparts. These walls form the largest ancient monument in Nicosia. This was the end of the long period of the Middle Ages known to historians as the Lusignian regime.
When the Turkish soldiers arrived at the walls of Nicosia in 157I, they found that instead of bashing at the gates, they could obtain entrance to the city by capturing a bastion. These enormous bastions proved to be points of weakness in the defenses. The Turks converted the churches into mosques, built khans and generally abolishe d the feudal system by introducing a new method of taxation. Collection of taxes was "tarmed out" to the highest bidder, and later, this led to much trouble. Earthquakes seem to have occurred several times, every few hundred years, and a severe shock in 1741 caused one of the minarets of St. Sophia to tumble down. Many buildings of the Lusignian period still show the scars of the shocks, for we can see huge cr acks and windows and doors out of alignment. The Bedestan is a good example.
The history of Nicosia in the last two hundred years can be obtained from Turkish archives plus chats with residents who live in houses, occupied by the same family for generations. The house of Dr. Rassim at no. 5 Kamil Pasha street has been with the fam ily for seventy years and Mrs. Rassim related to the writer much historical detail about her home. It is a large house with a large garden with a very high wall and containing its own well, a legacy of the Middle Ages, perhaps going back five hundred year s. In 1878 the house became the first archdeacon's house when Cyprus came under British administration. One large room became a kindergarten and another, with a fine carved ceiling became a chapel. This beautiful wooden ceiling is probably several hundred years old and her description of events within the family is a microcosm of the history of Nicosia for the last century. Mrs. Rassim gave a vivid story of the days of intercommunal strife when the Eoka gunmen fired from the roof tops of the Ledra Palace on to the Rocca bastion nearby. Those days are gone for ever.
The sketches show some rough sequence in Nicosia's chequered history. Fig. 27 is the Chapter House, the oldest domestic building in Nicosia, and probably dates from the Lusignian period, i.e. 14th century. Fig. 28 is a Venetian house between the Sultan's library and the Bedestan, and the high window on the left with its columnar mullions, resembles the domestic architecture of l6th century Florence in Italy. The main entrance to the Bьyьk Khan is shown in fig. 29 and this dates from about I600 A.D. When t he Turks arrived in I57I quite a number of inns or khans were built. Houses with large gardens were selected because it provided the space for the inner courtyard. Like the old inns in England, there was always an inner yard to provide accommodation for h orses and donkeys.

So far, little has been said about the social history of Nicosia and this will be dealt with in the next chapter. In a tour of Nicosia, the visitor is bound to see the old churches of the Middle Ages and the Venetian walls and bastions, but rarely do tourists ever peep into the gardens of some houses in the old quarters, which seem to bristle with antiques, old wells, Roman columns, carved wooden doors etc. They form deIightful subjects for the wandering artist and at the same time are really the relics of ancient Nicosia, more than six hundred years ago the medieval garden city.

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