Cathedral of St. Nicholas (Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque)
Famagusta, Cathedral of St. Nicholas (Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque)
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Built as a coronation church for the kings of Jerusalem after the fall of Acre in 1291, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas stands in the center of the medieval city of Famagusta and currently serves as the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. Most probably started by 1308,1the cathedral was rebuilt over the site of a former church and better served the swelling population in the city, as refugees continued to arrive from the mainland Levant.2
Although the western frontispiece bears an oft-noted kinship to the Reims Cathedral,1the plan of the cathedral resembles Leventine Crusader churches. Three aisles of seven bays are each entered by a western portal and are terminated in the east by a semicircular apse. The piers of the nave arcade are cylinders with simple base moldings.
The two-story elevation reaches a height of 22.1 meters, with the vaults springing from a height of 16.3 meters. This cathedral, perhaps the grandest on the island, is par in size with some French churches, such as Laon, Noyon and Coutances.1 The arcade arches spring from a height of 6.23 meters, reaching an apex of 10.6 meters. Large clerestory windows that span the entire bay make for a particularly light-filled interior.
The lintels in the western portal are narrow and support little weight, save for the tracery in the tympanum. The lintels in the upper towers bear a gap, separating them from the wall above. It should also be noted that at the lower cord of the lintels are rounded cuts rather than corbels. Although these are most likely to accommodate some sort of hardware, they would also have had the effect of a corner fillet that would refuse stress on the lintel during a tremor.
Accretion of Structure
Like the cathedral in Nicosia (36), this cathedral had apsidal side chapels added at the first and third bays from the east. A forth chapel is trapezoidal on the first bay.
Although it is on par with some medium-sized cathedrals in France, this cathedral suffered from collapses due to earthquakes and cannon fire. There is little evidence of accretion of structure, save for the wooden tie-rods on the flyer buttresses. The tower tops were never reconstructed, perhaps with the realization that towers are difficult to maintain.
In the case of this church, we see a persistence in rebuilding according to original design, rather than compromising that design with increased bulk work. The windows in the clerestory remain large, having not been filled in. On the other hand, the building, by design, has a low profile compared to its size in plan, similar to other churches in Cyprus. Despite the prestige and financial outlay for a coronation church, this one has only a two-story elevation; thus, perhaps here, we see a seismic solution via evolution, with adaptation of Gothic elements normed to local constraints.
It is interesting to note that the flyers along the nave flanks do not continue around the central apse, as they would around the chevet of a church in France, or as they do at the cathedral in Nicosia (36), the chevet of which collapsed during the earthquake of 1471. It would appear that the triapsidal east end was rigid enough compared to the length of the nave, and that extra supports were not deemed necessary; the static load was handled by the walls and buttresses of the apse alone.