This ancient church is the chief mosque in the northern state of Cyprus, and the great festivals of Bayram and other Moslem gatherings are conducted here. It was formerly the cathedral of St. Sophia which was built in the period 1209 A.D. to 1228, over the ruins of a previous building. Only recently, in 1976, have the ruins of the ancient building before 1200 A.D. been discovered, on the southern side. In style of architecture, St. Sophia resembles the famous mediaeval cathedrals of France.
The church was severely damaged by earthquakes in 1491, 1547 and 1735 A.D. and yet, as we see it today, the cathedral has survived. What is the reason for this? One would expect such high buildings to be razed to the ground during those severe earthquakes that occurred some centuries ago, for in those days, reinforced concrete and steel girders were unknown. The builders of ancient Gothic cathedrals always strived to make them as high as possible, to reach "up to heaven" and so inspire both awe and solemnity. The problem was how to do this, and, at the same time ensure that the walls would not collapse. This was done by building stone pillars outside to support the walls which are known as buttresses. If you live in a "posh" villa in Cyprus, your walls should be supported at the corners by buttresses. If there are none, then get out of the house quickly in the next earthquake.
In both parts of Nicosia (but mainly in the Turkish north,) there are a number of Christian Churches that have been converted to Mosques.
These look a little strange in the way that they buildings are not correctly alligned to be a Mosque, and consequently carpet has been laid at a cross angle to point the faithfull to Mecca.
The two huge minarets of Selimeye Camii mosque tower over north Nicosia. They were erected soon after Ottoman rule began in 1570, the cathedral interior fittings eventually being destroyed and its interioir walls whitewashed.
But the building is far older. It was started in 1209, and consecrated in 1326, a classic Gothic religious structure. You can still see this from the outside....look especially for the worn Green Man sculpture on the left frontage.
It seems odd, but the plain and whitewashed interior does allow one to appreciate the sweeping and graceful arched interior more easily than in the highly-embellished and decorated church and cathedral interiors one usually experiences.
Visiting is acceptable, although not really at prayer times. Just afterwards is best. Take shoes off outside, and dress appropriately (cover bare shoulders and knees) to show respect.
Do not walk in front of anyone who is praying.
Taking photographs is acceptable too, although I personally think using flash is intrusive and unnecessary.
More photographs in my Selimiye Camii travelogue
this mosque was made like a Greek orthodox church... but, during the Ottoman rule in the island, it was made a mosque by the Turks
now, it is in the north of Cyprus who is populated mostly by Turks
the 20% of Cypriot population is muslim... and they are generally Turks living in the north of the island
The Bunyuk Han or the Great Inn was built by the Ottomans to house travellers, there are 68 upstairs rooms , each had an open fire. It has been fully restored. There is a mini mosque in the middle of the courtyard. This is in the north.
St. Sophia Cathedral constructed in the 13th Century, this cathedral was where coronation ceremonies proclaiming the Lusignan kings to be the Kings of Cyprus were held. Kings were first crowned here as King of Cyprus and then crowned King of Jerusalem in the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Magusa/ Famagusta. St. Sophia Catheral took its current name, Selimiye Mosque in 1571.
The building’s immediate surroundings and Arabahmet district is an area where you can most strongly feel the atmosphere of Lefkosa’s old city. Visitors to Lefkosa are still greeted by wonderful examples of old urban architecture as they wander down narrow streets and are met by the wonderful surprise of houses that retain all their grandeur. During Lusignan and Venetian times, St. Sophia Cathedral and its surroundings were a very important centre, not only for religious functions but also for commercial and social interaction. After the Ottomans began to use the cathedral and renamed it Selimiye Mosque, the building and its surroundings did not lose their importance but became even more influential. In addition to the people who came to the mosque from Lefkosa and the surrounding environs, this region was very busy with regular customers coming to the commercial buildings, inns, shopping centres and markets as well as those coming to the shops in the area.
The Selimiye mosque was once a Christian building - more precisely the gothic cathedral of Ayia Sofia. You can't see it in my photos, but the most striking detail is its door, tall - monumental - richly carved and decorated. The Lusignan princes would walk through this door as pprnces, and walk about as kings - then they went on to Famagusta where another crowning ceremony would take place - there they would be granted the honorary title of kings of jerusalem.
While most of the exteror has remained intact, the interior - when it was turned into a mosque - had to go. Only some tombstones used for flooring remained, but today they are not visible, as they are covered with carpets... then the additions started: the incomplete bell-towers became complete and were called minarets, and an ablution fountain was palced in the yard outside. At the beginning, though, the name did not change - it was Hagia Sophia Mosque. The present-day Selimiye Mosque is a new invention (1954)
The cathedral is noted as being the largest and the finest temple, and the most important Gothic structure in Cyprus. It is said to have been constructed over a Byzantine church called Hagia Sophia on the same site. The construction was started by the Latin Archbishop Eustorge de Montaigu in 1208. It was consecrated in 1326 and opened to religious service. As it was the most important church of Cyprus the coronation ceremonies of the Lusignan kings were held here. The cathedral was restored by the Genoese in 1373, and by the Mamluks in 1426; it was damaged in several earthquakes.
The eastern section of the cathedral was destroyed in eathquakes in 1491 and as it was being restored by the Venetians, the grave of an old Lusignan king (Hugh II) was uncovered. The corpse was well preserved with a crown on its head, and items made of gold and documents on it. The cathedral was constructed by French architects and craftsmen and it is a beautiful eaxample of medieval French architecture. The cathedral has a monumental entrance. The carved windows above the entrance are examples of unequalled Gothic art. The Ottomans have built minarets over the two unfinished belfries on either side of the entrance.
The inside of the cathedral comprises three aisles, six side sections and little chapels. The chapel to the north was dedicated to St. Nicholas, the ones to the south to virgin Mary and St. Thomas Aquinas. The part of the mosque reserved for women used to be the treasury. Many Lusignan nobilities and kings are buried inside the cathedral. The marble grave stones of these graves still constitute part of the floor tiles. The inscriptions and drawings on these have been well preserved since they are covered with rush mats, and people are not allowed in with their shoes on.
A visit to the Cami Selimiye Mosque on the Turkish side of Nicosia is a must. If you do not go inside at least walk aroud to admire the architecture of the once was church. If you go inside then remember to take off your shoes, be appropriately covered and women should cover their head. As this is a working mosque please remember to be respectful during times of prayer.
You cannot miss it as it the biggest standing building around the old town.
The Arabahmet Mosque is at the northern end of Victoria Street, and west of Sarayonu (Ataturk Square). The external features of the Arabahmet mosque typify the simplicity of design used in all mosques in the Middle East.
This is a sixteenth century inn, the name meaning, BIG INN. It is situated in Asmalti street. This inn was built about 1570 A.D. by Muzaffer Pasha, so ít is not a mediaeval building.In the interior courtyard is a picturesque octagonal tower used for prayers and is therefore a miniature mosque or mesdjit, with a picturesque fountain below. Around the court and downstairs are the stables, while the merchants had their bedrooms upstairs. They are used as art galleries now with a variety of art performances from Karagoz Shadow Plays to art lessons...
This used to be a cathedral, that got turned into a mosque in 1570s. It's one of the best preserved buildings, as it still serves Muslim prayers actively. The building is noted as being the largest and the finest temple, and the most important Gothic structure in Cyprus.
You can visit Selimiye anytime except for the praying-time (Ezan) during the day.
The mosque was originally a church that was destroyed in 1570 by the Ottomans. It was rebuilt as a mosque with a tall minaret. It is still a place of worship used by muslims. If you visit make sure you cover yourself. Certainly don't enter in your shorts and t-shirts. Don't forget to remove your shoes before you go in ... and avoid visiting during prayer time.
The Greek side of Nicosia has its own working mosque. They have recently finished restoring the are with a grant from the EU. It is a beautilful area of town and worth a stroll around.