Top Historic Sights in Famagusta, Cyprus

Explore the historic highlights of Famagusta

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque

The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque originally known as Saint Nicholas"s Cathedral and later as the Ayasofya (Saint Sophia) Mosque of Magusa, is the largest medieval building in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus. The cathedral was constructed from 1298 to 1312 and was consecrated in 1328. 'After an unfortunate episode when the current bishop embezzled the restoration fund', Bishop Guy of Ibelin bequeathed 20,000 bezants ...
Founded: 1298-1312 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. Francis Church

St Francis church was originally part of a Franciscan monastery, and was alongside the Royal Palace. Today it can be found close to the Venetian Palace. It consists of a three-sided apse with a small chapel off the south side. Buttressing supported the external walls. It was built in the early years of the 14th century with funding supplied by Henry II, King of Cyprus who reigned from 1285 to 1324. Henry"s reign was ...
Founded: c. 1310 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Venetian Palace Ruins

At the western end of Namik Kemal square, you will find the remains of the Venetian governor"s palace (Palazzo del Proveditore). When the Venetians took over Cyprus, it was not by force, but as the end result of intrigue perpetrated over many years. In 1468 they arranged a marriage between the Lusignan king James II, and Caterina Cornaro, the 18 year old daughter of one of Venice"s most noble families. The Vene ...
Founded: c. 1550 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. George of the Greeks Church Ruins

Built beside the small Byzantine church of St. Symeon, the church of St. George was a Orthodox Cathedral. An elegant mix of Gothic and Byzantine styles it was intended to rival its Catholic counterpart. However it was too big, with insufficient buttressing and a roof that was going to be too heavy. The pillars throughout the nave were expanded to take more weight and the roof was inserted with large upturned terracotta po ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. George of the Latins Church Ruins

St George of the Latins is the remains of one of the earliest churches in Famagusta. The exact date of construction is unknown, but evidence of a crenellated parapet where defenders could protect the church, hints that it was built at a time when the Lusignans had not yet completed the city walls. Its design was supposedly inspired by St. Chapelle church in Paris, which was built in 1241. Generally, it is thought that the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Salamis

The region round the bay of Salamis is one of the most favoured in the whole island and Salamis city became the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC. The city shared the destiny of the rest of the island during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East, viz. the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore. ...
Founded: 1100 BC | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Sinan Pasha Mosque was built around 1360 (originally as Christian Church of Saints Peter and Paul), supposedly with a third of the profits of a single trading venture of one of Famagusta"s wealthiest businessmen, Simon Nostrano. it is one of the largest of the Gothic cathedrals in Famagusta, and is similar in design to St George of the Greeks, which was built around the same time. Because of its massive height, the ...
Founded: 1360 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Othello Castle

Othello Castle was originally built as a moated citadel by the House of Lusignan in the 14th century to protect Famagusta's harbour, and was originally the main entrance to the town. The tower was restored 3 years after Cyprus was sold to the Republic of Venice, under the command of captain Nicolo Foscari. After the restoration the Lion of St. Marcus was engraved on the entrance, along with captain Nicolo Foscari's name a ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Land Gate

The Land Gate is one of the two original entries to the walled city of Famagusta, the other one being the Sea Gate, and is the most spectacular. It is the second oldest part of the walls, after the Othello"s Tower. It is also the most interesting part to those interested in military fortifications. Over the centuries it has been called the Ravelin, the Rivettina Bastion and the Akkule, depending on who ruled Famagust ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Ayia Zoni Church

Ayia Zoni church is in the south east corner of Famagusta, close to St Nikolas" church, and is one of three remaining Byzantine churches in the area. Ayia Zoni is dedicated to the sacred belt of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, the Holy Belt was made by the Virgin Mary herself out of camel hair. It was approximately 90cm long, with little strings at the end to tie it up. Three days after she died, during her ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Carmelite Church Ruins

The church of St Mary of the Carmelites is situated in the north west corner of Famagusta. In the 13th century, as the Muslim armies gradually reclaimed the Holy Land, many middle eastern Christians fled to Famagusta. Although Christian, their specific beliefs differed from that of Latin or Orthodox Christians. Because of this, they tended to congregate in the same area, and here you will find churches of the Nestorians, ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

St. Anna Church

St. Anna"s church was built in the 14th century, and is thought to have been part of a monastery. It is single-aisled with two bays, and Gothic features resembling those of southern France. The walls are supported by external buttresses, between which can be seen tall windows, a typically Gothic feature. The apse is polygonal with buttresses. Originally the facade supported a belfry, but that has disappeared.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Armenian Church

The Armenians came to Cyprus from the southern coast of Turkey before the French Lusignans arrived in 1192. Like other non-Latin or non-Orthodox Christians, they settled in the Syrian quarter of the city, so named because that was where the Carmelites from Syria were based. The Armenian church was probably built in the 14th century by Armenian refugees. It is quite small, with just one aisle and a cylindrical apse. The r ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Nestorian Church

The Nestorian church is top be found in the north west quarter of Famagusta, where most middle east Christians settled. The Nestorians mainly arrived after the fall of Acre in 1291. They were mainly merchants, and extremely wealthy. This church was reputedly built in 1359 by Francis Lakhas, who is said to be so rich that he once ground up a diamond to spread on his food, just to show that he could afford to do it. In spi ...
Founded: 1359 | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.