WHAT TO SEE - SIGHTSEEING

FAMAGUSTA

NAMIK KEMAL SQUARE

Walking straight to the West of the city you pass by the old customs offices. If you keep walking you will come to a square full of historical buildings.

A statue of Namık Kemal (the poet and the playwriter) is located in front of you. He was sent for excile during the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz period for 38 months to Famagusta.  The statue was erected in 1953.

If you keep walking in the same direction you will come to the magnificent Gothic style Cathedral which was named St. Nicholas Cathedral when it was built. Venetian Palace is located opposite side of the Cathedral.

Centrally located square has witnessed many cases for decades. Just to name a few; in 1372 a big number of Genoese were killed in a riot that took place at the coronoation of Peter II which led Cyprus to a war with Genoa. In 1571 Ottoman General Lala Mustafa Pasha executed the Venetian commander Marcantonio Bragadino in the same square.

GPS 35.1250519, 33.9407638

ST NICHOLAS CATHEDRAL

When you walk from the Sea Gate (Porta Del Mare) to the centre of the Medieval city you will see the beautiful Gothic style Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in the years of 1298-1312 during the Lusignan period. The Lusignan rulers were being crowned as Kings of Jerusalem in this Cathedral.

The islands last monarch Queen Caterina Cornaro yielded to the monopolizing powers of the Venetian Republic and abdicated peacefully in 1489.

When Ottomans conquered the island they added minaret and converted the place into a Mosque and named it ‘Magusa Ayosofya’. It was later renamed as ‘Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque’.

Some of the colored glasses have been removed from the gothic style windows but you still can see the beauty on the remaining ones.  After you enter the Mosque the green seperation on the right side is for women. You can also see a tombstone in this section.

In 1735 more than 300 people had died on a Ramadan Bairam day when the people were praying. In 1900 the minaret was restored and added like the original.

GPS 35.1253859, 33.9421966

PALAZZO DEL PROVEDITORE (THE ROYAL PALACE)

It was constructed in 13th century as the ‘Royal Palace’ of Lusignans.The following centuries it was  used by Venetians. At the entrance of the Palace three arches are supported by four grand columns which were brought from the Ancient Salamis.

Over the central arch stands the coat-of-arms of Giovanni Renier who was the Captain of Cyprus in 1552. Nowadays only the courtyard and the arches at the entrance remain.

The  Palace was used as a prison in Ottoman period. If you keep walking straight after you enter the Ventian Palace you will see the two stored building on your left handside which was used as a prison to Namık Kemal.

To visit the museum you have to climb about 20 steps. (The museum is under construction now.) Just opposite the museum you will see the cannons and the cannon balls remaining from the Ottoman period.

GPS 35.1247547, 33.9410323

FRANSISCAN CHURCH AND MONASTERY

St. Francis had visited Cyprus on his trip to the Holy Land on the Fifth Crusade. The church and the Monastery was named after St. Francis.

The building is one of the oldest and the most important one of Latin religous orders in Cyprus. The building is facing the north of the Venetian palace. Nowadays the ruins exist but you can still see the Medieval stone work which is piled up outside the west door.

GPS 35.1251453, 33.9407916

AGA CAFER PASHA HAMAM (BATH)

Located within the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery and just opposite to the Venetian Palace which was built by Aga Cafer Pasha in 1601. Aga Cafer Pasha was a well known Ottoman governor who set out to improve fresh water distribution to the inhabitants of Famagusta.

GPS 35.1252594, 33.9408396

ST. PETER & ST. PAUL CHURCH

Keep walking from Venetian Palace to Land Gate (Ravelin) and you can’t miss the magnificant flying buttresses of the church. Famagusta’s wealthiest businessmen Simon Nostrona had built the church with the third of the profits of a single trading venture he made in 1360.

The design is very similar to St. George of the Greeks which was also built around the same time. After the conquest of Ottomans in 1571 a minaret was added to the church and it was converted into a mosque which was named as Sinan Pasha Mosque.

Unfortunately the minaret which was added to the south west corner broke off centuries ago and it still reaches no further than roof level.

During the British era Sinan Pasha Mosque was used as a potato and grain storage and locally known as the ‘Wheat Mosque’ (Bugday Cami). In 1964 it was used as Famagusta’s Town Hall and library and nowadays its mainly used as exhibition centre for handicrafts and arts.

On the side towards the Land Gate (Ravelin) which is in the boundaries of the Sinan Pasha Mosque you will see the Tomb of ‘28 Celebi Mehmet’. He was a renowned diplomat, an Ottoman Ambassador of France, but he was sent to excile to Famagusta but died in 1732.

GPS 35.1241662, 33.9407709

SEA GATE (PORTA DEL MARE)

One of the original Gates of the walled city of Famagusta. Was built by the Venetian Captain of Famagusta, Nicola Prioli in 1496.

The large iron portcullis which could be raised and lowered by chains dates from the Venetian period but the wooden gate covered with iron dates is from the Ottoman period. Above the gate facing the harbor stands the winged Lion of Venice. The name of Captain Nicola Prioli with his coat-of-arms and the date of 1496 which was carved on white marble.

GPS 35.1262399, 33.9447176

LAND GATE (RAVELIN)

This was another original Gate of the walled city of Famagusta. The gate was named as ‘Akkule’ (White Bastion) during the Ottoman time. Inside there is labyrinth of ramps, steps and rooms. The place has been recently open for public.

GPS 35.1218086, 33.9392263

OTHELLO’S TOWER

It is known as Medieval castle or citadel which is facing the harbor. It was actually built during the reign of Henry II and later enlargeed during the Venetian period.

Entrance is at the southwest corner through an arched gate and you can see the winged lion of St. Mark carved on a white marble which was the symbol of Venetians and is hanging over the entrance gate.

After you pass through the gate you come to central court and five chambers which make the Great Hall. The steps are uneven and high to climb up to the upper level but it’s worth to see the beautiful view of Famagusta and the harbor.

By the way Venetians filled many of the citadel’s ventilation shafts with earth and rubble to prevent canon balls from penetrating them. Burried chambers may contain hidden treasure left behind by Venetians when they were surrounded by Ottomans. Some say this is just a BIG rumor!

Do you think ‘Othello’ the play of William Shakespeare’s has anything to do with this place?

ENTRY 2,50 €, children under 12 free

OPEN April – November 09:00 – 14:00, December  – March 09:00 -14:00

GPS 35.1261085, 33.9444665

SALAMIS RUINS

This is one of the nicest and the oldest Kingdoms of Cyprus. The history of the place goes back to 11BC. The first inhabitants came here after the earthquake of Enkomi. First coins minted in Cyprus dating 6th century BC were found in Salamis. 

Ancient city of Salamis was founded by Teucer, son of King Telamon of Salamis island of Greece. (The island lies in the Saronikós Gulf of the Aegean Sea, west of the city of Piraeus)

Salamis (Cyprus) for a period was part of the Persian Empire until the death of Alexander the Great. This is when the Empire was divided and Cyprus falling to Ptolemy. Salamis became an important trading centre with the countries bordering Mediterranean during the Helenistic and Roman periods.

Earthquakes in 332 AD and 342 AD caused big damages in Salamis. The city was rebuilt again by the Byzantine Emperor Constantius and was named ‘Constantia’ and became the capital of the island again. After the Arab raids in 648 it was abondened and people moved to another place and named it ‘Arsinoe’. Later it was known as ‘Ammohostos’ (sunken in sand) in Greek and ‘Famagusta’ in English.

The most important sights of Salamis are Theatre, Roman Baths, Gymnasium and Latrines. There are a lot more to see like Kampanopetra Basilica, Roman Villas, Temple of Zeus, Ayios Epiphanios Basilica and more. The visitors should see the St Epiphanos and Campanopetra also as they are the largest churches in Cyprus. Unfortunately the excavations in Salamis had stopped a long time ago.

The ticket office is on your right handside when you enter Salamis. You should stop to buy your tickets and after purchasing  keep driving until you come to the car park which is opposite the coffee shop. A young friendly boy owns the coffee shop and the local restrooms are on the back side of the coffee shop. Now let’s go and see ‘Theatre’ which is located on the West.

Theatre. The ruins date back from the time of Augustus which originally was 50 rows of seats. More than 15.000 people could sit here. The orchestra was in the front of the seating rows and in the front decorated with statues and an altar dedicated to Dionysus.

After the earthquake of 4 AD the theatre was never rebuilt. Nowadays it still attracts the people because of its acoustics. Visitors like to sing here on the stage. The place is still used especially in summer for concert events.

Keep walking towards the columned arcades and you will pass by amphitheatre, cistern and after descending 5 steps you are in the Gymnasium.

Gymnasium. It was the excercise ground during the Augustus time and a stone basin with the statue of the Emperor was in the centre. The marble columns were covered with colored statues and numerous polychrome mosaics of which only a few are left today.

Latrines. These were the antique toilets. The capacity was for 44 people. It was also the gathering place for men and mainly where they chat about politics. As the water was running from behind only the one sitting next to the other could here what they were talking about. There were again decorated pillars in the front. When I first saw the latrines they reminded me of ‘Alaturca toilets’ (squat toilet) which was still in use in many Moslem countries even today.

Roman Baths. (Frigedarium/Cold – Calderium/Steam bath – Sudatorium/Hot) The first part of the baths is octagonal pool. It was mainly surrounded with ‘Corinthian’ style columns where people could sit on the side and put their legs in the water. There were two of these rooms.

The next room was known as the ‘sweating room’. The floor was covered with marble and the steam would blow out from the centre and people would lie and sweat in the room. This was the similar system of sauna that we have nowadays.

On the south wall  there is a fresco which dates back to 3rd century AD. Hylas, the boyfriend of Heracles who gets lost in Mysia on the way to Colchis to bring the Golden Fleece and where he refuses the water from nymphs. 

There are more mosaics: Apollo and Artemis killing Niobe’s children with arrows and another one is Leda, the future mother of Helen and Zeus disguised as a swan with the river God Eurotas. There are also some mosaic fragments in the hot room (on the arches).

Much more than thousand years, the Roman city of Salamis lay buried in sands. This saved the site from destruction and looting in the Middle Ages.

ENTRY 2,50 €, children under 12 free

OPEN April- November 08:00 – 16:00, December – March 08:00 -14:00

GPS 35.1847594, 33.9025127

ST. BARNABAS MONASTERY & ICON MUSEUM

The Monastery of St. Barnabas is on the left hand side of the road from Enkomi to Salamis Ruins opposite to the Royal Tombs.

Barnabas was from a Jewish family who had settled in Cyprus. Actually his orginal name was Joses or Joseph. Barnabas was the name given to him by the early Christian apostles because he was known as a ‘Son of Prophecy’.

After he returned from Jerusalem he started to spread the Christianity with St. Paul. Unfortunately his enemies killed him. His followers burried him under a carob tree in a cave.

Later the followers were chased out of Cyprus all the way to Egypt so no one new where Barnabas was burried. More than 400 years later Bishop Anthemios had a dream and in his dream he saw  where Barnabas was burried. Anthemios was right and Barnabas was lying with Gospel of St. Mathew on his chest in a cave under a carob tree.

Anthemios went to Constantinople to tell the King. This is when Cyprus had its autonomy and also with the donation of the money he had the Monastery was built. The original Monastery was built in the 5th century AD. The recent church was built in 1756 by Archbishop Philotheoes.

After you walk the from the entrance door the ticket office is on your left handside and you come to the Church which is on the right. Right behind the entrance door of the church you will see the fresco depicting the whole story of finding the Barnabas’ thomb. The rest of the church serves as an icon museum nowadays.

The Icons are mainly from the 19- 20th century. The cloister of the Monastery is serving as an Archeological Museum which many items are from the Neolithic age to Roman times.

The Tomb of Barnabas is still in the same place which is in a cave under a carob tree in the other end of the garden facing the Monastery. Barnabas was born on June 11th so every year there is a big ceremony.

ENTRY 2,50 €, children under 12 free

OPEN April – November 09:00 – 15:30, December – March 09:00 -14:30

GPS 35.1749607, 33.8805868

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