Renovated as part of the Nicosia Master Plan, the imposing Bedestan dates from the 6th century, when it was built as a small Byzantine chapel. It was grandly embellished in the 14th century and reborn as St Nicholas Church.
Today it's used primarily as the venue for whirling dervish performances. Unfortunately, this means the beauty of the building's swooping Gothic arches is somewhat curtailed by rows of garish orange plastic chairs and other additions. The Bedstan is only open to ticket-holders during performances.
There is some dispute over whether, after its 14th-century extension, the church served as an Orthodox or Latin place of worship. The north doorway has some splendid looking coats of arms originally belonging to noble Venetian families. These families may have been supporters of the Orthodox Church, which was allowed to continue with its business despite the Catholic dominance of religious life in Cyprus.
After the Ottomans’ arrival in 1571, the church was used as a grain store and general market – 'bedestan' is the Ottoman name for a covered market – but was basically left to disintegrate.
More recently, at a cost of two million EU-funded euros, this magnificent building was restored to its former glory and was recognised with the prestigious Europa Nostra Award for cultural heritage in 2009.