St. George of the Latins
Famagusta, St. George of the Latins
ca. early 14th century
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Located along the eastern wall of the city, north of the Latin cathedral, this church has no documentation that has come down to us. Its extreme state of ruin also tells us little, the dedication to St. George being known only by the identification on the Gibellino map of 1571, on which the artist noted it as "S. Georgio," followed by the abbreviation 'lat.'1 (Fig. 1163) Built of finely cut ashlar sandstone, the remains of the church are deteriorating due to sea spray, wind and ongoing seismic activity.
The church has a single vessel nave with three bays terminating in a five-sided apse. The western wall is in ruin, so we don't know what the western portal looked like. The north portal is as wide as a bay and topped with an ornately carved gable. While there are no other doors visible in the remaining north wall or apse, there are niches in almost every bay that are so shallow as to appear as a kind of dado arcade.
Each bay of the two-story elevation has a relatively large lancet window in the clerestory of the nave and the apse, (Fig. 871) so the church was probably quite bright. The vaults, which are completely collapsed with most of the stone from them carried off, sprung from a height of 7 meters and reached an apex at a height of 12.6 meters. Three-shafted colonnettes, unbroken by the sill course of the clerestory, rise up to foliate capitals that supported the ribs.(Fig. 875)
Unlike most of the churches in Cyprus, St. George of the Latins has some examples of figural sculpture. A bracket above the right side of the north door depicts a figure of a bearded man with long hair wearing a robe. At first glance, he appears to be supporting another statue (now missing) above him “with great dramatic effect,” as Enlart described it, with the caveat that the figure of the carving is “not particularly correct.”1 On closer inspection, rather that supporting the corbel on his back in an awkward version of an Atlas pose, his outstretched hands show that he is facing the corbel.(Fig. 878) He is not supporting the weight, but clinging to it. His head is turned to look behind him and down. A look of terror on his face, with his mouth agape or crying out, shows that he appreciates the precariousness of his situation several meters above the ground (or perhaps the fires of hell).2 Because of its prominent location above the decorated northern portal, this sculpture is meant to be canonical and didactic, not a fanciful elaboration employed as architectural marginalia.
Some gargoyles also remain on the building, extending from the coping, though their heads have been knocked off.(Fig. 879) They consist of two nude men, a nude woman and two winged dragons. The turret corbeling has been carved with a group of animals set into foliage, including a lion mauling a horse or donkey.(Fig. 1158)
The north door is badly damaged, and it would appear that a new lintel has been installed to span it, regardless of the fact that there are no tympanum blocks to support.(Fig. 876) While the modern lintel helps to frame a modern set of gate doors, it also provides an interesting insight into the ceremonial need for a lintel. A small door in the north oblique wall of the apse, which leads to a small antechamber, is spanned by a simple monolithic block with no gap or corbels.(Fig. 877)
The collapse of the south nave wall and the vaults was thought by Enlart to have been from bombardment during the Turkish siege in 1571 – a plausible explanation, considering the proximity of the church to the harbor where the Ottomans had set up batteries.1
Paulo B. Lourenço, et al., in a recent study of the seismic hazard to the present ruins, indicate that prior damage fits with patterns seen in earthquake loadings.2 They conducted both limit analysis and built a finite element model of the ruins and calibrated it with vibration testing of the real structure. Among the results of their limit analysis, they found a hinge in the north wall at the level of the cornice below the windows.(Fig. 1159) The finite element model indicated that, when horizontal forces were hypothetically applied in the north-south direction, little deformation resulted.(Fig. 1162) When the same magnitude of forces were applied in the north-south direction, laterally to the nave, there was beam deformation between the rigid areas of the apse and the thick west wall.(Fig. 1160) (Fig. 1161)