SS Peter and Paul (Sinan Pasha Mosque)
Famagusta, SS Peter and Paul (Sinan Pasha Mosque)
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Located in the center of the urban area still enclosed by the late medieval walls of Famagusta, the 14th-century church of SS. Peter and Paul is one of the largest church buildings in Cyprus, in conjunction with the nearby Latin and Greek cathedrals a short distance to the east. Tradition holds that a wealthy merchant, named either Suriano Christiano1or Simon Nostrano,2provided funds from his profits of trade with Beirut to build the church.
Although it was the second church in Famagusta to be converted into a mosque following the Ottoman invasion in 1571, in Camille Enlart's time and during the British administration of the island, it was used as a storage facility.3
The three-aisled basilica is divided into five bays. Each of the aisles terminates in an apse and is entered on the west end by a portal. The central bay of the north aisle features a simple portal that is bracketed by colonnettes and simple torus moldings in the arch. The round piers of the arcade are simple cylinders with modest base moldings and drum-like capitals.
The vertical space of the nave feels quite lofty despite its two-story arrangement. Atop the cylindrical piers of the arcade sit triple shafts of equal diameter, which rise against the clerestory walls and from which spring the ribs of the quadrapartite nave vaults. Triple shafts climb the outer walls of the aisles as well. Such triple shafts are common in Frankish church architecture in Cyprus, for example, in the nearby Greek Cathedral, as well as at least one example in the 13th-century Hospitaller Church of St. John in Acre.1
The clerestory is fenestrated with tall, narrow windows in each bay that appear constrictive in comparison to the full-bay windows of the Latin cathedral. The flying buttresses on the south flank of the church are unornamented, massive and arrayed in two tiers. The first tier supports the nave vaults, buttressed by coulee that are supported on the outer aisle walls. The second tier, located at ground level, supports the aisle vaults, sitting on massive plinths in the ground and buttressed by coulee that are very wide in comparison to the distance to the aisle wall.
The portals of the western frontispiece have deep monolithic lintels that fill about half of the space of the archway. Above them is a gap and above that a straight arch. Though they are quite massive and protected by the gap, they are all cracked. On the north door, an elegant marble lintel bears three shields, since defaced. The lintel sits atop small capitals carved with crockets, and in today's configuration, it directly supports blocks above, without a gap. In the center is a space deep enough for a statue. Oddly, a thick arch appears to protrude from the rear wall over this lintel, but its voussoir stones do not touch the lintel and appear instead to levitate just above it.
Accretion of Structure
The lower tier of fliers found on the south aisle exterior wall are not mirrored on the north side of the building and appear to be a later addition meant to shore up the south aisle vaults. It is interesting that, as massive as this lower tier of flyers is, similar buttressing was not deemed necessary for the north aisle vaults, even though the buildings is symmetrical. Although lower to the ground, and thus less sensitive to lateral accelerations, the east-west depth is greater than that of the nave flyers, indicating that the builders were aware of the vulnerability of French flyers in the longitudinal direction.
Although the flyers at SS. Peter and Paul were most likely built later than those supporting the Latin cathedral, they show none of the cathedral's delicate tracery, carving and diminutive proportioning of the culées. While less elegant, they do have a structural advantage: Due to the depth of the culées in the east-west direction, they would fare better during lateral accelerations from earthquake in that direction. It should be noted that the buttresses were constructed after the earthquake of 1303, an event during which the Latin cathedral suffered damage and partial collapse.