…we entered the walled medieval city and harbour, dating back to the eleventh century, and were charmed by its beauty. The walls look in pretty good condition, with towers and gates still virtually intact. I read later that part of it is still used by the present day military.
The impressive centre is home to, among other remains, the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, formerly Cathedral of St Nicholas, which began construction in 1298. During Ottoman times, after damage had been sustained to both towers, it was re-modelled into a mosque. A minaret has been grafted onto the side. The old arched windows, some containing stained glass, have been filled in and replaced with complicated latticed Ottoman-style slits. Inside the walls are plastered over, the floor is covered in carpet and not an embellishment or icon are to be seen. It’s a most startling and incongruous sight. In fact I found it impossible to suppress a slightly hysterical giggle at what had happened to this old monument to Catholicism. (During later sight-seeing forays I saw other, similarly changed, monuments of Christian worship, all of which triggered this irrepressible giggle.)
Like most mosques during visiting hours there wasn’t much going on inside while we were there, so we were able to take in the contrasts and changes at our leisure. The only action was to be found in the former altar area, where scaffolding had been erected and workmen were going about the business of ceiling conservation; not a hard hat or harness in sight, bless ’em. I guess those frescoes of naughty cherubs and shameful women must have been appearing through the whitewash.
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