The capital city of Northern Cyprus, Nicosia is located 15 kilometers from the airport. Nicosia, which is situated in the middle of Mesaoria plain, is one of the oldest settlement of the island that has been settled continuously for 4500 years.
The city is surrounded by still standing eleven circular and heart-shaped bastions and walls with three gates. The north gate is Kyrenia Gate, the west is Paphos Gate and the east gate is Famagusta Gate. The Ottoman Empire took the conrol of Nicosia in 1570 despite all the efforts of Venetians. Venetian Column, Kyrenia Gate, Selimiye Mosque and the Great Inn are the main locations that must absolutely be visited in Nicosia.
Venetian Column located in Atatürk Square was built by Venetians in 1550. It had Lion of St. Marks in the past, but the Ottomans removed the column and put it into the courtyard of the Sarayonu Mosque. Then, the British situated the 6-meter column on its current location in 1915. The granite column is considered to have been brought from a temple from Salamis Island. Lower part of the column includes coat of arms of 11 Italian families.
Copper sphere on the top of the column was added afterwards. The building on the west side of Atatürk Square are unique in architecture as they were built in British colonial period in the early 1900’s. There is a fountain on the west side of the buildings. Besides, there is a platform built for acceding of Queen Elizabeth to the throne in 1953. The British Governor declared the enthronement of Queen Elizabeth on this platform, which has Royal Crest on it.
Venetians started to increase and widen the height of the Lusignan walls in order to defence Nicosia against the Ottomans in 1567. The plans of the walls were designed by a well-known Venetian engineer named Giulio Savorgnan. With a circumference about five kilometres, it includes three gates and eleven bastions that each one can be counted as a fortress. The walls are made of masoned thick dike. The names of the gates located on the walls are Porta del Proveditore (Kyrenia Gate) on north, Porta Guiliana (Famagusta Gate) on east, and Porta Domenica (Paphos Gate) on west.
Venetians demolished the buildings, palaces, monasteries and churches that were located outside of 5-kilometer area to use their stones for the construction of the walls. The eleven bastions were named after the names of nobles and other contributed people (Rochas, Loredano and Barbaro). Nicosia was sieged by the Ottomans before the Venetians completed the construction of the walls. Kyrenia Gate was one of the most important point of entry – exit of the town. In 1821, the Ottomans added a domed room after reconditioning the gate, which was also known as Del Proveditore, inspiring from the name of the architect Proveditore Francesco Barbaro. On the top of the gate, there is an epighraph which includes verses from the Quran. The signature of Sultan Mahmud II was placed to the northern side of the gate.
Selimiye Mosque, converted from a cathedral, is accepted as the largest, the most magnificient sanctuary and the most prominet Gothic architectural work in Northern Cyprus. It is said to have been built on the area of a Byzantine church named Hagia Sophia. The construction of the cathedral was started in 1208 by Latin Archbishop Eustorge de Montaigu, and it was opened to worship in 1326 after having blessed. Lusignan coronations were held in this cathedral as it was the most prominent cathedral of Cyprus. The cathedral was sacked by Genoeses in 1373 and by Mamelukes in 1426. It also got damage as a result of some earthquakes. The eastern part of the cathedral was demolished due to the earthquake in 1491, and the tomb of Lusignan King, King Hugh IV, was found by Venetians during renovation process. The body of the king was intact, and he was wearing a crown and had some golden materials as well as some documentations when he was found. The cathedral, built by French architects, is a splendid example of Middle
Age French Architecture. The cathedral has a portal. The glyptic windows located above the portal are a unique example of Gothic Art.
Mosque minarets were built on incomplete bell towers on both sides of the entrance. The inside of the cathedral is composed of three corridors and six partitions and it includes small temples that were dedicated to St. Nicholas (northern temple), to Virgin Mary (southern) and to St. Thomas Aquinas. The female part of the mosque was used as treasure house in the past. St. Sophia includes the tombs of many Lusignan nobles and kings whose gravestones still form a part of floor covering. As these gravestones remain under the carpets or rush mats and it is forbidden to enter with shoes, they have been able remain intact until today.
The Great Inn is the most prominent work of Turkish Architecture in Nicosia It is accepted to have been built by Muzaffer Pasha, the first Ottoman Governor in Cyprus, in 1572. The Great Inn was built on a square plan as duplex. The rooms located in a wide courtyard open into an arched and domed porch. It is obvious that the Great Inn was constructed with stones collecting from various locations and structures. It is also likely that pillars carrying the prayer room which was built on marble pillars were collected from another structure. Hexagonal stone chimneys and the domed small mosque are significant features completing the Turkish Architecture. Rooms located in the ground floor were used as shops, warehouse and office. The rooms having octagonal chimneys were bedrooms. Although there are similar structures in Minor Asia, the Great Inn has a difference; in general, this type of inns or caravansarai have only one entrance, yet the Great Inn has two entrances.