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Constructed during the rule of the French Lusignan dynasty (1192–1489), the Gothic cathedrals and churches of Cyprus are famous for their pronouncedly Westernizing style, which reshaped, and continues to distinguish, their Levantine setting. Less well known, however, is the defining role these monuments played in Cypriot architectural history after the Ottoman conquest of the island in 1571, when most of them were converted into mosques.
My paper will examine not only how the Lusignan structures were repurposed, adapted, and perceived by their new users, but also—and more importantly—their impact on the many new mosques built on Cyprus under the Ottomans. Whether in relation to Anatolia or other Ottoman-ruled Mediterranean islands, Cyprus is extremely unusual for its dearth of domed mosques in the traditional Ottoman mold, a situation that is all the more remarkable given that domical construction flourished in other kinds of Ottoman-Cypriot building. I explain this apparent anomaly as an outcome of the visual and spatial dominance of the island’s converted churches and in particular the cathedrals of Nicosia and Famagusta, which set a highly idiosyncratic standard of mosque architecture that held sway into the early twentieth century.
For the island’s Muslims, the Gothic thus took on particular resonances associated with congregational worship, so that new mosques were typically built as rectangular halls spanned by lateral pointed arches and covered with gable roofs, a scheme whose basic outlines recall a vaulted nave. The compatibility between the Gothic arch and its similarly pointed Ottoman counterpart encouraged this model, as too did the contrast such architecture offered to that of the island’s Greek majority, whose own—often domed—churches had been left largely unconverted. Exemplifying this remarkable synthesis is the nineteenth-century Peristerona Mosque, which features a unique raised clerestory that proclaims the Gothic’s special place in Ottoman-Cypri.