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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The art and architecture of the crusader states

V: The Arts in Cyprus,   pp. 165-207 PDF (15.7 MB)

Page 171

The figures have been cut back flat to the main face, but the outlines of
their poses and their haloes strongly suggest the apostles at the foot of
a Transfiguration. The outside niches may have held figures of founders or
particular patron saints, with, beyond, the censing angels, the only figures
tolerated by the Turks. These angels are of a quality much superior to that
of the voussoir figures. Between the doors must have stood a trumeau figure,
for which the canopy still survives, and there are similar canopies for two
other column figures on either side of the central entrance. 
 All three doorways are flanked by twin niches, of little depth and framed
in elaborate foliage borders; above them two hands hold a crown; they must
have contained paintings rather than sculpture, possibly panel icons, for
two of them still have hooks fixed below the crowns. On some of the foliage
carving there are still faint traces of color. In the shadow of its arched
bays the porch must have been a rich and glowing spectacle in its original
completeness, and a fitting entry to the cathedral as decorated within by
John del Conte, with its marble choir screen, echoing presumably the style
of the porch, its painted ceiling of stars on a blue ground, its woven fabrics,
and its wall paintings. The archbishop also added a chapel, opening from
the second bay on the south side, dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas. John del
Conte was himself a Dominican, and the Friar Preachers were always an important
force in the island; it was for the young Hugh II that Thomas Aquinas himself
had written his De Regno ad regem cypri. 6 This chapel Felix Fabri tells
us was, when he visited it in 1484, "exquisitely painted with the legends
of the Holy Doctor, while a gilt plaque on the altar sets forth his acts."7
Possibly to this same period belongs the rebuilding of the two-storied treasury
in the north transept, the upper room of which, with its store cupboard built
into the wall, is one of the best preserved parts of the whole church, and
one where the stonework can be admired without the thick layers of whitewash
that elsewhere blur all the details. 
 The silhouette of the great cathedral rises above the houses of Nicosia;
despite its two Turkish minarets, it has a strangely familiar air to western
eyes, familiar but disconcerting, for it lacks the high-pitched roofs of
northern Gothic. From the arrangements of 
 6. See Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship, to the King of Cyprus..., tr. G. B.
Phelan, rev. with introduction and notes by I. T. Eschmann (Pontifical Institute
of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1948), pp. xxvi-xxxix. 
7. Fratris F. Fabri evagatorium in Terrae San ctae Arabiae et Egypti peregrinationem,
C. D. Hassler (Bibliothek des literarischen Vereins in Stuttgart, II-IV;
3 vols., Stuttgart, 1843-1849), III, 230. 

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