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M. Olympios
Building the Sacred in a Crusader Kingdom
Gothic Church Architecture in Lusignan Cyprus, c. 1209 - c. 1373

approx. 489 p., 216 x 280 mm, 2018
ISBN: 978-2-503-53606-4
Languages: English
The publication is in production.The publication is in production. (11/2018)
Retail price: EUR 110,00 excl. tax
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At the eastern confines of Latin Christendom, between the Levantine Crusader states, Byzantium, and Islam, the Lusignan kingdom of Cyprus (1192–1489) was home to a rich and diverse array of Gothic ecclesiastical structures, significant remains of which are still to be seen today. From the grand Latin cathedrals of Nicosia and Famagusta, the austere churches of the mendicant orders, and the magnificent monastic buildings of Bellapais Abbey to the imposing Greek and Nestorian cathedrals of Famagusta and the churches of the Eastern Christians (Armenians, Melkites, Maronites, etc.), Cypriot Gothic architecture evolved to serve the needs of the island’s multi-cultural and multi-creedal society.

This new study is based on original research on the physical fabric of Cyprus’ Gothic ecclesiastical edifices, on a thorough exploitation of the published archaeological data, and on a new reading of the extant documentary sources (some of which are published here for the first time) to offer a fresh account of the development and place of Cypriot Gothic in the architectural history of medieval Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. It proposes to do so by re-evaluating and re-contextualizing the ambitions of the patrons and the choices (and compromises) of the master masons responsible for this unique monumental heritage.

The conclusions reached in this study have far-reaching implications for the history of Gothic architecture on the island and the surrounding region. The cathedral of Nicosia, the kingdom’s capital, re-emerges as the single most important architectural undertaking of the period. Not only is it singled out as the site where full-fledged Gothic was first introduced in the Latin East in the early thirteenth century, it is also identified as the chantier where French Rayonnant made its Cypriot debut in the latter part of the century, nearly thirty years before Famagusta Cathedral was renovated in an up-to-date Rayonnant style in c. 1300. With the rise of the royal port-town of Famagusta after the fall of Acre (1291), two major architectural centres developed side by side, leading parallel and seldom converging lives. The distinctiveness of their styles is thrown into higher relief by the creation of a ‘Crusader Revival’ architectural idiom unique to Famagusta by the 1360s, to visually complement the crown’s crusading policies. The study of lesser churches in the two royal towns, as well as the major non-urban monastic complex, Bellapais Abbey, demonstrates how the ideas and designs introduced at the two cathedrals were adopted and adjusted to the tastes and needs of a diverse local clientele, ranging from the king and the mendicant orders to the Greeks and Eastern Christians.


Michalis Olympios received a PhD in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art (London). His research currently focuses on art and architecture in the Latin East, 12th-16th centuries.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Lusignan Cyprus, 1192-1373: Patrons and Builders of Latin Ecclesiastical Architecture

A Crusader Kingdom between East and West

Latin Patronage of Ecclesiastical Architecture: Crown, Nobility, Burgesses, and Clergy

Master Masons and Their Workshops: A Survey of the Documentary Evidence 

Chapter 2: The Genesis of a Regional Gothic Style: The Earlier Campaigns at Nicosia Cathedral, the Church at Bellapais Abbey, and Related Developments, c. 1210 – c. 1250

Prelude to the Introduction of the Gothic: Frankish Responses to Middle Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture, c. 1190 – c. 1210

The Chevet and East End of the Nave of Nicosia Cathedral: The First Gothic Building in the Latin East?

The First Phase (1209–28): The Chevet and Lateral Chapels

The Second Phase (Second Quarter of Thirteenth Century): The Eastern Part of the Nave

Nicosian Aftermath: Cypriot Gothic c. 1210s – c. 1250

The Church of Bellapais Abbey

A Diversity of Approaches: The Chapel in Limassol Castle and the Church at Beaulieu Abbey

Chapter 3: French Rayonnant, Cypriot Tastes: The West End of Nicosia Cathedral (1270s – c. 1350) and Its Immediate Progeny (c. 1300)

The West End of Nicosia Cathedral: Building a New Canon

The Documentary Evidence, 1270s – c. 1350: The Cathedral Chantier in the Eye of the Cyclone

The Building Chronology: Evidence for a Protracted Construction Campaign

The Pedigree of a Unique Design

Nicosian Reverberations in Cypriot Architecture c. 1300: The Franciscan Church in Famagusta, Panagia Galatariotissa in Paphos, and the ‘Latin’ Chapel at Kiti

Chapter 4: Architecture for a ‘New Acre’: Church Building in Famagusta in the First Quarter of the Fourteenth Century

The Church of the Hospital of Saint Anthony and Thirteenth-Century Gothic in Famagusta

A New Style for a New Building: The Cathedral of Saint Nicholas and Rhenish Rayonnant Architecture at the Close of the Thirteenth Century

Adoption and Assimilation: The Church of Saint George of the Latins and Enlart’s ‘Unidentified Church No. 14’

Chapter 5: Monastic Austerity and Stylistic Diversity: Cypriot Gothic in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century

The Church of the Benedictine Nunnery of Our Lady of Tortosa in Nicosia

The Church of the Convent of the Augustinian Hermits in Nicosia

The Church of the Carmelite Convent in Famagusta

‘Unidentified Church No. 15’ in Famagusta: A Synthesis of Famagustan and Nicosian architecture in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century?

Chapter 6: Retrospection and Innovation: The Monastic Buildings of Bellapais Abbey and Architecture in Nicosia and Famagusta in the 1350s and 1360s

Fit for a King: The Monastic Buildings at Bellapais Abbey

After Bellapais: Architecture in Nicosia in the Third Quarter of the Fourteenth Century

Saint Catherine

Yeni Camii

Church of the Augustinian Hermits

The Monastic Buildings of Beaulieu and Saint Theodore Abbeys

Commemorating the Crusader Levant: A Note on Architecture in Famagusta in the Third Quarter of the Fourteenth Century

Chapter 7: Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture in Lusignan Cyprus, c. 1209 – c. 1373: A Tale of Two Towns

Appendix I: Previously Unpublished Documents from the Vatican Secret Archive and the State Archive of Venice

Appendix II: Iconography and Function of the West Front of Nicosia Cathedral

Appendix III: Earthquake Damage and Restoration at Nicosia Cathedral


Index Nominum

Index Locorum

Interest Classification:
Fine Arts & Performing Arts
Medieval architecture

This publication is also distributed by: ISD, Marston
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