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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume IV: The art and architecture of the Crusader states

V: The arts in Cyprus,   pp. 165-207 PDF (8.9 MB)

Page 167

Hellenism. The Venetian rule of the sixteenth century left as its memorial
the walls of Famagusta; it brought no general stimulus to the arts. The fa├žade
of the Palazzo del Provveditore in Famagusta, built between 1552 and 1554,
is one of the few pieces of genuinely Renaissance decorative architecture
in the island. It was before its triple-arched portico some twenty years
later that Bragadin was to suffer his awful martyrdom, the final heroic scene
of the Venetian rule. 
 Of the island's churches pride of place goes to the cathedral, Hagia Sophia,
of Nicosia. Its design and carvings reflect much of the history of the times.
Through the survival of its cartuiary, we are unusually well informed as
to the doings of the cathedral chapter, 1 but even with this guide, and with
that of chroniclers such as Amadi and Estienne de Lusignan, there are uncertainties
as to the various stages of the building. The main construction certainly
dates from the archbishopric of Eustorgue of Montaigu (1217-1250), but Amadi
dates the commencement of the building in 1209, and Lusignan as far back
as 1191. These conflicting statements probably reflect some preliminary stages
which lacked continuous fulfilment. 
 On the doorway to the north transept there are two deeply undercut acanthus
capitals and a frieze, forming an abacus for one of the capitals, which are
exactly in the style of tile Temple workshop in Jerusalem; 2 the capital
opposite has a finely carved vine scroll of a quality more common in Palestine
than in Cyprus; the bases of tile columns have the characteristic Palestinian
fluting. These details suggest that some beginning was made during the Templars'
brief period of control, or at least that some of their masons found a home
in the island. There was a Templars' church in which Guy of Lusignan was
buried in 1194, and it seems probable that of this church only the eastern
arm was completed. If this was replaced by the larger scheme of the cathedral,
some of the earlier material may well have been reused. Certainly the north
transept door as it stands is a patchwork of different styles, but its present
form may date from the earthquake of 1491, when the east end of tile cathedral
was seriously damaged. Inside the ambulatory there is another fragment curiously
misplaced. Four slender columns close the presbytery; of these three rest
on the floor without bases or on bases now covered, but the fourth is placed
on an upturned Gothic capital, with plain 
 1. J. L. LaMonte, "A Register of the Cartulary of the Cathedral of Santa
Sophia of Nicosia," Byzantion, V (1929-1930), 439-522. 
 2. See above, pp. 80-86. 

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