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North Cyprus History

Lefkosa ( Nicosia ) :

It is claimed in Assyrian sources that date back to the 7th centurt BC that the city that was called Ledra is the origin of Nicosia. During the old Egyption period on the island, in the years around 300 BC, the son of Ptolemy 1,Lefkos, rebuilt the city and gave it his name.The name Lefkoşa derived from this.Some also say that it derives from the white poplar trees, called Lefki, that grew in abundance in its river beds.The name Nicosia was first used in the 12th C when the native people rebelled against the Knights Temlar.From this date onwards the island was ruled from Nicosia and it was accepted as the capital city of Cyprus.

The city which was developed during the Lusignan period and continued until the Venetians conguered the island in 1489. During the Venetian administration, in order to strengthen the walls, many churches and palaces were demolished and the materials were used in the constuction.

Nicosia, conguered by the Ottomans in 1570, was ornamented with mosgues, Turkish baths,Moslem theological schools and inns which were works of art of the Ottoman culture.


Selimiye Mosgue ( Cathedral of St. Sophia ) :

 The Selimiye mosque, originally the Roman Catholic cathedral of Ayia Sofia, is the oldest, and one of the finest examples of Gothic art in Cyprus, the work of the French masons who accompanied the Crusades. The monumental main door and the carved stone window above it  are of particular interest. Construction began in 1209 during the reign of the Lusignan king Henry I, and lasted 150 years. There is evidence that it was built over the ruins of a much earlier Byzantine church called Hagia Sophia.It was consecrated in 1326 while still incomplete, and the blunt-roofed bell towers were never finished.Within its portals, Lusignan princes were crowned kings of Cyprus before proceeding to Famagusta for a second, essentially honorary, coronation as king of Jerusalem.The cathedral was restored by the Genoese in 1373 and the Mamluks in 1426. The eastern section of the cathedral was destroyed by earthquakes in 1491, and further restoration work was undertaken by the Venetians.When the Ottomans took the city in 1570, they destroyed the interior fittings, chopping up the pulpit and pews for firewood, and using the tombstones for flooring. Unfortunately, the more interesting tombstones are not usually visible as the floor is now covered with a large carpet. A pair of fifty metre high minarets were added to the incomplete bell towers, and an ablutions courtyard fountain with trefoil arched niches was constructed.As a mosque, the church was renamed the Hagia Sophia Mosque, a name which it retained till 1954 when it was renamed  the Selimiye Mosque.

The Great Inn ( Büyük Han ) :

One of the most important architectural works of the Ottoman period, the Buyuk Han (The Great Inn) is located in the traditional market centre within the City Walls. The Han, which was built to provide accommodation for travellers from Anatolia and other parts of Cyprus was originally named "Alanyalilar's Han". The Han is similar to all the other Hans which can be found in the city centres of various Anatolian cities, although the Buyuk Han is unusual in having two entrances. It is worth noting, however, that there is a specially strong resemblance between the Buyuk Han and the Koza (Cacoon) Han in Bursa, Turkey which was built around 1490.The square planned, two storey Buyuk Han consists of 68 rooms which open to the vaulted galleries surrounding a square planned inner courtyard and 10 shops which open to the outside of the Han. From 1893 to 1961, the Han was used as a hostel for destitute families. Restoration began in 1963. The south colonnade was completely demolished and the south west corner rebuilt without any regard to the style of the original. After the events of 1963, restoration was halted for a number of years. However, after extensive renovations which took ten years, the Han was re-opened in it's original style to visitors in 2002, and is now one of the Island's finest buildings.

Kyrenia Gate :

 For over a thousand years, Nicosia was a walled city, just like the majority of towns in the middle ages. Unlike the majority, however, Nicosia's city walls remain standing. This is in the main because of their construction, an earth rampart with stone facings, meaning there was not a lot of material for recycling as the city expanded and defensive walls became less relevant. There were originally three gates through the Venetian city walls. The Famagusta gate was in the east, and the Paphos gate in the west. The Kyrenia gate is the arched northern entry into old Lefkosa. Built by the Venetians around 1562, it used to be called "Porta del Proveditore", named after the Venetian proveditore (city guard) Francesco. The Venetians fitted it with a portcullis and a still-visible lion of St Mark. After their victory, the Ottomans added an inscription lauding Allah as the "Opener of Gates". The gate would open with the morning prayer call, and close with the evening prayer. During the Ottoman times, the gate was known as "Edirne Gate".

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