The former Cathedral of Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas) is the finest example of Lusignan Gothic architecture on the island, built between 1298 and 1326. Modelled on France’s Cathedral of Reims, it outshines its sister church, the Church of Agia Sofia (now Selimiye Mosque) in North Nicosia (Lefkoşa).
Converted into a mosque (camii in Turkish) after 1571’s Ottoman invasion, it still dominates the skyline of the Old Town. To enter, time your visit outside of prayer times and dress modestly.
During the Lusignan reign the church was Famagusta’s centrepiece. As such, the last Lusignan king of Cyprus, Jacques II, and his infant son (Jacques III) were buried here.
The church was damaged considerably during the Ottoman siege of Famagusta and its twin towers were destroyed. The Ottomans added the minaret, stripped the church’s interior of its Christian accoutrements and emptied the floor tombs.
The west-facing facade, now a pedestrian zone, is the most impressive part, with three gracious portals pointing towards a six-paned window, decorated with a circular rose.
Inside, the walls have been whitewashed in Islamic fashion, but the soaring Gothic architectural lines are still easy to follow.