Nestorian Church of St. George the Exiler
Famagusta, Nestorian Church of St. George the Exiler
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According to the 15th-century chronicler, Lentos Machaeras, the Nestorians from Syria, who were aristocrats and financiers in Famagusta in 1360, contributed to the building of the Nestorian church.1
- Rory O'Neill, Oct 29, 2014
The church was originally a single-vessel nave with three bays, terminated on the east end with a semicircular apse. According to Enlart's analysis, not long after it was completed, the church was expanded to include two side aisles adjoining the two eastern bays, each terminated with a small apse.
The original nave has a two-story elevation with narrow lancets in the clerestory. The vaults are not ribbed, but constructed of finely cut ashlar. The aisle vaults are not quite as fine in their construction.1 The arches of the nave and aisles spring from corbels known as "elbow columns" popular in Crusader churches in the mainland Levant, such as the church at Abu Ghosh and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.2
The lintel of the west door of the central bay is composed of an unusual system of three straight arches atop one another, with the highest having a curved upper chord, leaving only a few rectangular ashlar blocks to be supported by the lintel assembly. This multi-tiered support system seems to be an alternative to the use of the gap that appeared in other churches of the mid-14th century, such as the Carmelite church (no. 15) and the cathedral in Famagusta (no. 12). The main arch of the doorway is supporting the wall above.
The doors of the north and south aisles have a single course of wedged blocks forming a straight arch. The door to the north aisle through the north wall has a very deep monolithic block supported by corbels. The lintel bears no weight, since a small, but deep, retaining arch above spans the narrow opening. In this case, the lintel is almost purely decorative. A similar arrangement can be found in the span of the adjoining window.
Accretion of Structure
The addition of the aisles could be seen as an expansion of the church to hold a larger congregation, but it is interesting to note that it also makes the entire plan more centralized, particularly since the aisles do not extend the original three-bay length of the nave.
The addition of the aisles and the depth of their exterior buttresses would have made the church better performing in the face of seismic loading.