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Nicosia, Cyprus

Sarayönü - Atatürk Square

sarayonuAtatürk Square (or Sarayönü) was the political centre of Cyprus for centuries, for the northern face of the square (now filled with ex-colonial police barracks) was once filled by the Saray, the Gothic Palace of the governor throughout the Frankish, Venetian and Ottoman periods.

In 1904 an unimaginative British administration demolished this 700 year-old complex with its fine apartments, arcaded courtyard and throne hall. Only a hexagonal Ottoman fountain survived, to which a British colonial review stand was added in 1920s.

Venetian Column,In the centre of the square stands the Venetian Column, which was crowned by the lion of St. Mark until toppled by the victorious Turks in 1570. 

This granite column, traditionally believed to be have been quarried from the temple of Jupiter at Salamis, lay in the grounds of the Sarayönü mosque for several centuries. The British re-erected it during the First World War, when they were at war with the Ottoman Empire. They decorated the new plinth with the two dates of the columns erection, 1550 and 1915, by a pair of maritime Empires that were each fated to rule Cyprus for exactly the same period, 84 years.

The original Sarayönü mosque was demolished at the turn of the century and but for its minaret, replaced by something Moorish. Horseshoe arches were used freely both within and without, by an English architect who ignored Cyprus' visible Ottoman, Byzantine, Gothic and vernacular traditions in favour of his inadequate recollection of Andalucia. It is no longer used for prayer, and its shaded outdoor benches make an inviting place for a quiet read. 


• Rogerson, B., (1994), Cyprus, Cadogan.
• Goulding, M., (1992), Northern Cyprus.



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