This Gothic Cathedral is considered to be the finest example of Gothic church architecture to be found in Cyprus, and it certainly is an impressive structure which is very much like the Cathedral that was built in the French city of Reims and that’s why it is sometimes called ‘the Cypriot Reims’ as it follows closely the laws of French Gothic Architecture.
Built between 1298 and 1312 it originally served as a place of Christian worship, the story goes that when the population of Famagusta all died horribly from the Black Plague which swept through Europe from China. A messenger of the Pope was then sent to Famagusta where a solemn service was held for the dead and a religious procession made around the city giving out holy blessings, after this holy ritual the records show that no more cases of the plague ever happened again.
Just outside the entrance there is a giant fig tree which has stood there for over 700 years having been planted when the first building work began. Today the cathedral is a place of worship for the Muslim faith and most of the imagery show the life of Christ. Other holy pictures were removed as Islam prohibits images of people in all religious buildings.
This meant that statues, crosses, and stained glass windows and murals were either destroyed or white washed over to hide them. The many tombs and the altar were also removed except one, which is the tomb of the Bishop of Famagusta who died in 1356 and it is a white marble slab built into the floor. There is also thought that within the mosque there are the graves of the last two rulers of Cyprus Jean de Lusignan also known as John, the second of Cyprus and his infant son Jean.
The Cathedral was designed so that the pomp and ceremony of coronations could be conducted and there was a special part of the building set aside for such royal ceremonies. It was here that many kings and queens had their coronation ceremony, including that of the young King Peter the first.