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)
Ch. V CYPRUS: ECCLESIASTICAL ART 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 façade 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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