Church of St. Mary of Carmel
Famagusta, Church of St. Mary of Carmel
ca. mid-14th century
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Father Stephen Lusignan mentioned a Carmelite church in Famagusta, and the Gibellino map of 1571 appeared to identify this building in the northeast corner of the city near the Martinengo Bastian of the Venetian walls as said church.1 Being the furthest large church from the Latin Cathedral, it marked the far end of the city and prompted Queen Catherine Cornaro in 1473 to ride on horseback to it during a procession to ensure she traversed the city.2 St. Peter Thomas, the patriarch of Jerusalem who sought to have the Greek church submit to Rome, was supposedly buried in this church.3
The single-vessel nave of this Carmelite church has three bays and a choir that is a five-sided polygonal apse. The nave is 30 meters in length, and the westernmost bay is a square measuring 8.86 meters on a side. The walls are 1.1 meters thick and surfaced with ashlar block. Shallow side chapels were added to the central bay, extending out only slightly past the depth of the buttresses. The western wall is massive, measuring 2 meters in thickness and punctuated on each side with turret-like buttresses.
The vaults of the church, which have completely collapsed except for the apse, sprang from a height of 4.63 meters and rose to an apex of 11.35 meters. The arches for the side chapel additions were cut into the north and south wall, and the arch partially filled in the clerestory windows, which themselves were lancets about one-quarter of the width of the bay. The walls were supported at each bay by external buttresses that extended 1 meter from the surface and reached to the haunches of the nave vault.
The lintel of the western portal has a gap above the monolithic block that can be clearly seen, despite the stucco covering the tympanum blocks. The sides of the lintel are slightly corbeled by the molding that runs around the jam. As in many other Cypriot churches, the tympanum is thin, while the arch above the portal bears most of the western wall's weight.
A door in the southern wall of the apse, which is now filled in, is spanned by a monolithic block that directly supports the ashlar blocks above.1 The blocks are not deep, and the wall above is supported primarily by a retaining arch.
Through the southeast wall, there is another door with a very deep lintel carved out to allow for a shield or other decoration, attesting to its importance. This lintel has a gap that is carved into the ashlar blocks above. Just to the left of this door is a small niche set into the oblique wall. Although the opening is small and the lintel above the niche is corbelled, there is still a narrow gap caved above the lintel block. It would appear that, at this point, the gap is serving an almost decorative function, perhaps passing from averting cracking during seismic activity to being a symbol to mark the significance of the opening.
Accretion of Structure
The chapels added to the center bay distinguish this church from its nearest neighbors. As we see in several other large churches in Cyprus, such as the Franciscan church in Famagusta (no. 16), Our Lady of Tyre in Nicosia (no. 40), and the church of St. Mamas at Morphou (no. 33), the addition of the chapels appears to be only at the center rather than an accretion of chapels along the full length of the building so common in French churches.
The apse is largely intact, as is the western wall. As a larger church, the structure benefited from the added rigidity in the center, helping to support the long nave from flexing under seismically induced torsion (beam bending) in the lengthy span between the rigid east and west ends. The nave walls and vaults suffered the greatest damage, however, which would indicate that a bending beam stress on the center of the building occurred anyway. While such stress may have been the result of bombardment, it fits a seismic pattern as well. The window and door openings in the building are small, save for the larger tracery window in the west wall.