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 for its construction. The Lusignans would be crowned as Kings of Cyprus in the St. Sophia Cathedral (now Selimiye Mosque) in Nicosia and then crowned as Kings of Jerusalem in the St Nicholas Cathedral in Famagusta. The cathedral was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire captured Famagusta in 1571 and it remains a mosque to this day.
The building is built in Rayonnant Gothic style, quite rare outside France, though 'mediated through buildings in the Rhineland'. The historic tie between France and Cyprus is evidenced by its parallels to French archetypes such as Reims Cathedral. Indeed, so strong is the resemblance, that the building has been dubbed 'The Reims of Cyprus'; it was built with three doors, twin towers over the aisles and a flat roof, typical of Crusader architecture.
The upper parts of the cathedral's two towers suffered from earthquakes, were badly damaged during the Ottoman bombardments of 1571, and were never repaired. With the Venetians defeated and Famagusta fallen by August 1571, Cyprus fell under Ottoman control and the cathedral was converted into a mosque, renamed the 'St.Sophia Mosque of Mağusa'.
Islamic tradition prohibits the depiction of creatures or iconography; consequently, nearly all statuary, cruciforms, stained glass, frescos, and paintings were removed or plastered over, as well as most tombs and the altar. The Gothic structure was preserved however, and a few tombs can still be identified in the north aisle.In 1954, it was renamed the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque after the commander of the 1570 Ottoman conquest- infamous for the gruesome torture of Marco Antonio Bragadin, the Venetian commander of the city's fortress. Bragadin had surrendered the city following a brutal 10-month siege in which 6,000 Christian defenders held off an army of more than 100,000 Ottoman Turks. A pledge of amnesty was secured from Lala Mustafa Pasha- who then reneged and had Bragadin beaten, his ears and nose cut off, publicly humiliated, and flayed alive.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.