The building known as The Bedestan or Bedesten to (Cypriot) Turks - i.e. an Exchange or Market - is the Orthodox Metropolis of the Venetian period in Nicosia. By the "Bulla Cypria" of 1260, the Orthodox Bishop of Solia, or of the district of Nicosia was prohibited from residing within the city of Nicosia, but during the Venetian occupation of Cyprus this law must have been relaxed and Bernardo Sagredo speaks of "quel di Solia che fa residentia in Nicosia", in 1562.
It stands at the south-west corner of the Latin cathedral precincts, and seems built as if in rivalry with its greater competitor of the foreign and dominant religion. The history of the building, like all or most Orthodox monuments in the island, has still to be fully discovered. No date or inscription survives upon its walls, and the only clue of an historical character rests in the row of small Venetian shields sculptured on the lintel of the great north door.
The earliest references to the church are made by Pierre Mesenge
(1507) and by Jacques le Saige (1518), the first of whom describes
it as the Greek cathedral "dedicated to Our Lady" (metropolis). (Fra Stefano Lusignan calls it "Crussotheistrie" signifying the golden or precious advocate, as far as such a term can be translated).
De Bruyn (1700) mentions it as then in use as a Bazar, and Mariti
(Viaggi, 1769) says: "Quite close to the said mosque there is
another beautiful building, dedicated to St. Nicholas, Bishop,
as one sees from a figure of the said Saint in bas relief still remaining
over the door. This church also had three aisles and columns on
which are painted various saints much damaged. The place is
now called Bezestan, a kind of market where all kinds of goods
are sold. It is the business resort of the chief merchants of Nicosia,
Turks, Greeks, and Armenians. If this church has not been profaned by being made a mosque, it has had no better fate in
becoming a fair". (This statement on the part of Mariti is perhaps the origin of a curious "mare's nest" identification of the building with the interesting Order of St. Thomas of Canterbury - see "Monuments of Cyprus, George Jeffery, 1918, page 74).
De Mas Latrie (1847) saw the church in use, as at present, for a grain or lumber store.
The name of "St. Nicholas" seems to have been adopted by
De Mas Latrie and as a consequence the subsequent writers on
Cyprus, Bishop Stubbs, Dr. Hackett and Enlart have enlarged
upon the idea that this must be the church known in the XlVth
century as "ecclesia S. Nicolai Anglicorum". But as it will be
shown (on another webpage - Hans Doeleman) that the building bears every evidence of dating in its
present form from a period at least two hundred years after the
disappearance of the Order of S. Thomas such an identification is
hard to prove. In addition the figure of a saint which survives on the facade and which Mariti supposes to represent S. Nicholas
has no distinguishing emblem, and may represent altogether
Note about the source for the text above: George Jeffery (around 1918). - Hans Doeleman.
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Click the thumbnails to read a different version of the history of the Bedestan... Next read (above) about the restoration...