Nicosia, the largest town of Cyprus, has been the capital of the island since Medieval times. The history of the city is both interesting and adventurous. In the area known today as Prodromos, on the left bank of the Pediaios river, a number of artifacts dating from the Chalcolithic period (3900 B.C.) were discovered, leading us to believe that here was the precursor of the contemporary Nicosia.
During the early Bronze Age (2500-1900 B.C.), at a time when Cyprus enjoyed a certain prominence because of its copper production, three settlements were founded in broader Nicosia urban area: that of “Leondari Vouno” in Athalassa, that of Agia Paraskevi, and that of Nicosia proper. The two main factors contributing to the establishment of Nicosia settlement were the presence of water from the Pediaios river and the fertile land, favouring the development of agriculture and animal husbandry.
Nicosia Google Map Cyprus
Even though we do not have, to date, sufficient information concerning the continued habitation of the area following the early Bronze Age, mention is made of Ledrae in the 7th century BC catalogue by Essarhaddon of Assyria, in which specific mention is made of Onasagoras as King of Lidir (Ledrae). It may be that during the Roman period Ledrae was a small and insignificant agricultural settlement. Until the Byzantine period and, more specifically up to the 4th century AD, the settlement is referred to as Ledrae. Nicosia, though a small village during the time, maintained a bishopric. It is during this period that the constant Arab raids cause worries and fear in the coastal settlements, leading to the abandonment of several, with their residents seeking safety further inland. Furthermore, it is during the Byzantine period that Nicosia becomes capital of Cyprus, a function it maintains to this day. Towards the end of the Byzantine period, Nicosia falls to Richard the Lionheart in 1191, following his victory over Isaakios Comninos, the Byzantine governor of Cyprus, at Tremetousia. In 1192, Richard sold the island to Guy de Lusignan, founder of the dynasty of that name.
Nicosia Map Google Earth
The basic characteristics of the Frankish period (1192-1489) are: Nicosia becomes the administrative center of the island and near the Pafos Gate, in the western sector of the city, the royal palace is built. Nicosia maintains its role as capital of the island and a number of nobles set up their households here, while, at the same time, the city is adorned with imposing buildings and churches, as is the Church of Agia Sofia, in which the coronations of kings are held. Even though it is not conclusively known whether Nicosia featured Byzantine walls, it is definite that, during the Lusignan era it was fortified thus, albeit by different walls than today’s Venetian ones, which have replaced those initially built by the Lusignans. Furthermore, Nicosia was the seat of the local See, following the ousting of the Greek Orthodox Archbishopric to Solia during the 13th century. It is during this very same period that the city was renamed Nicosia, a change attributed to the possibility of the.
Frankish invaders having difficulty in pronouncing the Greek name of “Lefkosia”. The Venetian era (1489-1571) was marked by the construction of the walls, which enclosed a smaller area than those of the Lusignans, with three main portals, those of Famagusta, Kyrenia and Pafos. It is also during this period that the Pediaios river was diverted. During the Ottoman rule in Cyprus (1571-1878) Nicosia remained the official capital of Cyprus and the Archbishopric was relocated here, where it remains to this day. The heavy taxation and the economic decline, however, created a poor city with a slow growth and oriental mentality. The cultural and intellectual fields went into decline. Apart from the conversion of the Latin churches to mosques, as happened to Agia Sofia, and the creation of inns and baths, during this period the roads of Nicosia were narrow and earthen. During British Colonial rule (1878-1960), Nicosia continued to be the capital of Cyprus. The Presidential Palace was constructed of wood in 1878, at the very same imposing and strategic position. Following the events of 1931, when it was set ablaze during the October uprising, it was built of stone. It is during this period that Nicosia extended beyond its walls. Furthermore, during British rule, the road network was expanded and Nicosia was now not only linked to Larnaka by carriageway, but with other regions of Cyprus as well.
Nicosia Map Cyprus
The railway station, also situated outside the walls, contributed further to the expansion of the capital. All these resulted in the rapid growth of Nicosia’s population and, consequently, the increased need for housing. At a later stage, the construction of the airport, west of Nicosia, also contributed to this expansion. Following Independence (1960), Nicosia’s population increased mainly due to the trend to move to the cities as well as the concentration of economic, administrative, educational and other activities in the city. Gradually, it joined up with its former suburbs. After 1963, the capital was divided, initially with the formation of a sizeable Turkish enclave and later, on account of the Turkish invasion of 1974, a complete division of the city was effected. The Turkish invasion struck a serious blow to the capital, leading to the loss of the Mia Milia industrial area, the closing of the international airport, the creation of the buffer zone, something which deprived Greek Cypriots of a significant housing area, etc. However, despite all the adversities, Nicosia continued to grow with respect to population, the establishment of new financial activities and, primarily, the venue for local and international conferences and activities.
Nicosia is currently an administrative, political, ecclesiastical, educational, commercial and industrial centre. Besides, it is a police and military centre as well as the seat of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, dealing with legislative and juridical matters.
Nicosia Street Map, Cypriot & Turkish | Maps of Cyprus
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND CULTURAL MONUMENTS
The walls of Nicosia. The Venetian walls of Nicosia, designed by the Venetian architect Giulio Savorgnano, and constructed between 1567 and 1570, constitute the most imposing feature of the capital of Cyprus. The original Lusignan walls, protecting a bigger area, were demolished and their building material was used to construct the Venetian walls, 4,83km long with 11 heart-shaped bastions at regular intervals of 280m. There were three gates: The Pafos gate (Porta di San Domenico, in the southwest), the Kyrenia gate (Porta del Provveditore, in the north) and the Famagusta gate (Porta Giuliana, in the east). The circular walls of Nicosia have been described as an achievement of architectural design for the 16th century.
Five of the bastions are currently lying within the occupied part of Nicosia, but the visitor can explore the fortification works from Flatro bastion in the east to the Pafos gate in the west. The moat is currently been transformed into public gardens, car parks, playgrounds, etc. Various buildings have also been erected on the bastions, like the Town Hall, the Central Post Office and the Public Library on the d’Avila bastion. Elsewhere conspicuous busts and statues have been set up. The Pafos gate or the Gate of St. Dominico got its name from the famous monastery of St. Dominico, which once occupied a large area.
Nicosia Map: Google map of Nicosia Cyprus Photo Gallery
Konstantinos Palaiologos street parallel to the walls of Nicosia
Famagusta Gate. Famagusta Gate was originally called Porta Giuliana in honour of Giulio Savorgnano. It was also known as Porta di Sotto (The lower gate) because of its lower ground level inside as opposed to that outside. Due to the fact that the gate lies east of the walls and served mainly the roads from Famagusta and Larnaka districts, it was named Famagusta Gate. The Famagusta Gate is considered to be the best Venetian monument surviving in Nicosia. The inner side of the gate facing the city is very imposing with an arched door, two oval windows and marble coats of arms on the facade. The entire building consists of a vaulted passage with a spherical dome in the center which admitted sunlight inside. On both sides run two parallel large rooms. In 1930 the Municipality of Nicosia established a nearby opening of the walls, thus preventing the passage of people, animals and vehicles from the true gate of Famagusta. The transformation of Famagusta Gate into Nicosia Municipal Cultural Center dates from 1981, while in 1984 it was awarded the Europa Nostra prize. Currently the Famagusta Gate is used for lectures, art and blog exhibitions, theatrical performances and for many other artistic and intellectual activities.
Laiki Geitonia (Popular neighbourhood). The Laiki Geitonia quarter, restored by the Municipality of Nicosia in 1983, has a size of about 1600 sq. metres and lies within the walls, close to Eleftheria square and the commercial streets of Ledra and Onasagoras. Traditional houses of the 19th and early 20th century have either been restored or constructed in such a way as to preserve the physiognomy of that period. Paved narrow streets, traditional houses built with hewn limestone blocks, arches, arcades, two-storeyed houses, carved margins around the doors and the windows, pebble-paved paths, wooden balconies, old lanterns, etc, is what the visitor sees, while inside the houses wood beams, straw mat ceilings supported by thin trunks of pine or cypress trees are the predominant features. Apart from a blogshop specialising in Cypriot blogs, there are restaurants, cafes, taverns, boutiques, specialised shops, galleries as well as various craftsmen’s workshops. The visitor can stroll along typical 19th century houses and medieval narrow streets, can watch craftsmen in their workshops, can take a meal or a drink or can buy a souvenir. In 1988 Laiki Geitonia was awarded the international POMME D’OR prize of F.I.J.E.T.
The Archbishopric Palace. The Archbishop’s palace is an impressive modern building in Byzantine style, built between 1956 and 1960. The old Archbishopric, close by, houses the Folk Art Museum. The Archbishopric is the residence of the archbishop and the headquarters of the Greek
Orthodox Church. The two-storeyed building with a tiled roof, constructed with hewn limestone blocks, houses a large number of icons, manuscripts and other treasures of the Cyprus Church. Many additions to the whole structure took place between 1976 and 1987, when the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation was constructed, currently housing, among others, the Art Gallery and the Byzantine Museum. In front of the building stands, a marble statue of Makarios, while on the other end of the palace lies the bust of Archbishop Kyprianos, executed by the Turks in 1821.