I Toured The 5 Magnificent Artifacts of Northern Cyprus That Have Stood the Test of The Time In 5 Days

Today, I have decided to enjoy a historical visual feast and set myself the goal of touring 5 among the hundreds of historical places of Cyprus in 5 days. You can travel from one end of Cyprus to the other within minutes. So, wondering if I could fit my journey in Cyprus’s history in 5 days, I hit the road.

My first stop was Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque… 

The original name of Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, which is in one of the most beautiful harbors of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, was St. Nicholas Cathedral. So, it was a Catholic temple centuries ago. This magnificent artifact was opened as a cathedral in 1328. In 1571 it was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Empire to meet the region’s needs. The mosque was named after Lala Mustafa Pasha, known as “Kıbrıs Fatihi” (the Conqueror of Cyprus) in Turkish history.

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque was built between 1298 and 1312 during the Lusignan era. Lusignan kings were crowned as the King of Jerusalem, initially in St. Sophia Cathedral in Lefkosa (Nicosia) and then in St. Nicholas Cathedral in Gazimagosa (Famagusta). These ceremonies continued to be held until it was converted into a mosque in 1571 during the Ottoman period. The mosque carries the traces of the previous cathedral and demonstrates Ottoman architecture’s effects most nicely.

It is said that the western facade architecture of the cathedral -which is the most beautiful and well-preserved side of the building- was influenced by the Reims Cathedral in France. The cathedral is absolutely fascinating with its gothic-style windows… The structure used as a fountain in the cathedral’s courtyard used to be a 16th-century Venetian gallery.

A Venetian coat of arms at the entrance carved over the round windows took my attention. Ornamented embossments carry animal figures that are said to be brought from a temple in the ancient Salamis city, which is also located in Northern Cyprus.

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, which is among the most important places of worship for Christians in Cyprus, is defined as the heart of the touristic Gazimagosa city.

Can you guess the age of the oldest tree of Cyprus?

In front of this historic building with two chapels stands a centuries-old sycamore tree. Sycamore is a rare type of tropical fig in the north of Cyprus island. It is the oldest living tree of Cyprus with a 700-year long history. It is believed that this tree with spreading into 7 branches at 2,70 meters, was planted in 1298 during the cathedral’s construction.

 

St. Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum

I keep tracing the fascinating stories. I so am enjoying it. St. Barnabas Monastery -which has a fantastic story- and Icon Museum are my second stop…

Legend says St. Barnabas, born in Salamis as a son of Jewish immigrants, returns to Cyprus after completing his education in Cyprus and starts working with St. Paul in 45 CE to spread Christendom. These steps taken by St. Barnabas meets by the reaction of his fellow citizens. They murder St. Barnabas and hide his body in a swamp to be thrown into the sea later. St. Barnabas’ disciples watch the events and then bury his body in an underground cave located at the west of Salamis and put a copy of the Bible written by St. Mathews over his chest. The location of the body remains hidden for many years.

After 432 years, Bishop Anthemios says he saw the tomb in his dream and asks for the tomb to be opened. As the tomb is opened, they identify St. Barnabas due to the Mathews Bible. After this identification, the Bishop travels to Istanbul to meet with Emperor Flavius Zeno, and the Cyprus Church gains autonomy. The Emperor ordered a monastery to be built on the tomb’s site and donates for its construction. Thus, St. Barnabas Monastery, one of Cyprus’s most important historic buildings, was made that way in 477.

St. Barnabas Church has a rich collection of icons, most of which are dated back to the 18th century. It is said that the basalt mill located in the courtyard of the monastery is from the Tuzla settlement (formerly Enkomi) and the remaining columns and stones are from Salamis. The rooms where once priests lived have been restored and turned into an archeology museum. In this largest museum of the region, numerous deep-rooted history works from Cyprus’s Neolithic period to the Roman era.

And once again, I set out to continue my mysterious journey in North Cyprus’s history from where I left off. Keep following me 🙂

Salamis

I cannot believe my eyes. I am nearly mesmerized by the magnificence of Salamis 🙂 I would like to tell you about the ancient city of Salamis, which I have previously mentioned about its backstory. I was looking forward to seeing it…

Now, I am on the bank of Kanlıdere River, 6 km north of Famagusta.

This is the ancient city of Salamis. According to the city’s founding legend, which is dated back to the later Bronze Age, its founder was Teukros. As Teukros, the son of the King Telamon of the Salamis Island near Athens, could not prevent the suicide of his brother Aiax in the Trojan War, he got expelled by his father. So Teukros came here, Northern Cyprus, and founded this legendary city of Salamis.

This is Salamis Gymnasium of the ancient city of Salamis.

According to an inscription, Salamis Gymnasium is a Hellenistic gymnasium

dating back to the 2nd century BCE… It is incredibly impressive.

And here is the Salamis Theater, which tens of thousands of years ago used to host events attended by tens of thousands of people and still hosts the most critical contemporary Northern Cyprus events.

The Salamis Theater is located south of the gymnasium. Built during the Emperor Augustus’ period, the theater gains its final shape with some changes in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The stones of the building were used in the construction of the early Byzantine period public baths. It consists of three main parts as the stage, the orchestra, and the seating areas. As for the stage structure where the performances used to be held and the backstage was in, only the foundations have survived. It was used to be decorated with frescoes, niches, and sculptures.

It is said that the Salamis Theater had a capacity of 15,000 people. Following the restoration and consolidation works, numerous cultural and artistic activities are now carried out in the theatre. I wonder which concert would soon-to-be my first Salamis concert experience.

I look forward to that day 🙂

 

And this is the largest known basilica of Cyprus: Agios Epiphanius Basilica, which used to be the Metropolitan Church of Salamis.

This building was built between 368 and 403, during the tenure of Bishop Epiphanius. Epiphanius’ marble tomb is also located here. Agios Epiphanius Basilica is impressively divided into three separate sections by two rows of 14 columns.

According to what I read here, there were rows of bishops and priests under the apse. There were rooms where the priests used to change robes and store their belongings used in the rituals on both sides of this section. The heating system installed below the floor level in the baptism room met the hot water need to perform baptizing in winter. What an impressive architectural idea…

Apostolos Andreas Monastery

My current stop is a historical monastery located at the easternmost end of the Karpas Peninsula known as Apostolos Andreas or Zafer Burnu (Victory Cape). Apostolos Andreas Monastery has great importance for both Greeks and Turks. The monastery is devoted to Apostolos Andreas (St. Andrew), known as the Creator of Miracles, Lord of the Winds, and Travelers’ Protector. The church, within the monastery, attaches a mystical spirit to the place thanks to magnificent architecture with the beautiful chandeliers and icons. For the visitors, the monastery provides the opportunity to make a dedication apart from the rituals performed here. Not just the Orthodox visitors but almost everyone who believes in Apostolos Andreas’s power makes wishes and stick candles on the offering ground next to the entrance.

I made a wish and stuck a candle as well.

Something I have just learned; St. Andrew was the first person to be called to the priesthood by Jesus. That is why his religious title is “O Protokletos,” which means “the first called.” According to Christian belief, St. Andrew sets on travel to visit someone with a boat driven by the captain who was blind in one eye. Following his visit, he embarks on here and hits on a rock to enable a healing water flow. This water miraculously heals the blind eye of the captain.

This is such a place that hosts fascinating stories.

I guess it is time to hit the road with many stories that I will never forget.

I am so in a brilliant mood that I do not even feel the thousands of steps I have taken 🙂

 

Saint Hilarion Castle

Finally, I will try to climb to Saint Hilarion Castle, which has a breathtaking view. The castle is located at the very top of the Beşparmak (Kyrenia) Mountains of Northern Cyprus. Although it seems a bit challenging, I guess the view I will see will be worth it.

It was constructed to detect and warn against the raiding pirates approaching Northern Cyprus and the Anatolian coast. In fact, a monastery and a church were built here as well. The first historical records regarding the castle were included in some documents dating back to 1191. The castle, which has a strategic value, later became a holiday location for the nobility for the Lusignan nobility.

This is a famous castle which had inspired the “Sleeping Beauty” character of Walt Disney… They say it is possible to see Turkey from here in clear weather. I will definitely come back another day when the weather is clear.

The stairs reaching the top are a bit steep, but you can still climb up to 732 meters, the summit by holding to the railings.

The view is absolutely breathtaking and magnificent. It is incredible to be at the highest, at the summit 🙂