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Nicosia’s past reflected in its monuments August 15, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Cyprus Nicosia, Cyprus Occupied.
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nicosia.jpg  Medieval fortifications, churches, mosques and baths have been restored in the divided city with United Nations funds

Only the name Saman-Bahce, or Saman Orchard, remains of the old market gardens. The 68 houses form nine small residential complexes around a small square with a hexagonal fountain (above pic), where children play and neighbors meet. Visitors to the northern occupied part of Nicosia eventually end up at Buyuk Khan. Built in 1572, it is now a venue for entertainment and cultural events.

This major city in Cyprus is the last divided capital in Europe. It is also a city with a long history and a wealth of monuments recording its eventful past. Until recently, Greeks could only view the traces of its history in half of the city, though in 1979 the Mayors of both sides began jointly implementing a master plan to restore the city’s most significant monuments with the help of UN funds.

Though a series of delays affected the work of archaeologists, conservators and architects, the results are now apparent on the Venetian walls, city gates, churches, baths, mosques and Gothic and Ottoman monuments scattered around both sides of the divided capital. In 2003, the opportunity to visit the occupied side of Nicosia for a few hours enabled visitors to get an overview of this many layered city. At the Ledra Palace checkpoint, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots cross to the other side of the city, are the master plan offices, staffed alternately by Greek and Turkish Cypriots. A stroll through both the well-known and not-so-well-known monuments of Nicosia is the best way to piece together a mosaic of the invaders, conquerors and foreigners who left traces of their culture in Cyprus.

Venetian engineer Julio Savorgnano began work on the medieval fortifications of Nicosia in 1567. The walls encircle the city, reinforced by 11 heart-shaped bastions.

For some years now the Ammohostos Gate, in the free Greek area of Nicosia, has been used as a venue for cultural events. The restored Kyrenia Gate, also known as the Porta del Proveditore, is in the northern occupied area of Nicosia. On the avenue leading to the Kyrenia Gate, the Tekes Mevlevi, which was used by the Dervishes, is now home to the Turkish Museum of Folk Art.

Public buildings > In the center of the occupied northern part, next to the market, is Buyuk Khan, restored in 2003. A large, two-story building with porticos around a square courtyard with a small mosque in its center, it is now used for restaurants, art galleries and tourist stores.

Two large historic baths, the baths of Omeriye and Buyuk Hamam, have been restored and are still in operation. The Baths of Omeriye, a late 16th-century stone edifice, was built in 1570 by Lala Mustafa Pasha to celebrate the Ottoman conquest of Nicosia. Buyuk Hamam, in the market, was a Catholic church built during the time of the Lusignans. It was turned into a bathhouse when Nicosia was taken by the Ottoman Turks. Currently under restoration is the Kumarcilar Khan, dating from the late 17th century.

Aghia Sophia, the Cathedral Church of the Lusignans, where the rulers of the Franks were crowned, was made into a mosque with 49-meter minarets by Lala Mustafa in 1570. It is one of the city’s most important monuments. Right next to Aghia Sophia is the 14th-century Church of Panaghia Hodigitria, which was the Orthodox Cathedral during the Venetian period. It later became a covered market or bedestan.

The 13th-century Lusignan-era Armenian Church in Arabhnet, the Byzantine and Gothic Cross of Misirikou, the Churches of Aghios Antonios (17th century) and Chrysaliniotissa (early 18th century), the restored mosque of Omeriye, and the Church of Panaghia Faneromeni (early 19th century) are just a few of the places of worship within the walls of free old-city of Nicosia.

A short walk through the city reveals a wealth of monuments that reflect the storied past of this historic capital.

Master plan sets designs for city > The master plan for Nicosia had its beginning in 1979. The project was based on the idea that the prolonged separate development of the divided city would make uniform development difficult in the future. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) coordinated the project with the assistance of UNHCR and European Union funding.

Third phase > In 1986 the plan entered its third phase, of protecting and reviving traditional built-up areas within the city walls that have been recognized as significant parts of Nicosia. Typical examples are to be found in the neighborhoods of Chrysaliniotissa and Arabahmet, where mostly 19th-century buildings have been restored and handed over for use as residences or as artists’ studios. The same has been done with a group of houses built in 1900 in Saman Bahce, near the Kyrenia Gate. 

Casa d’Italia is back in full force August 15, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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casaitalia.jpg  The building has had its grandeur restored

Following years of dilapidation, Casa d’Italia, the imposing building housing the neighboring country’s cultural institute in Athens, has been fully refurbished and relaunched.

The building, located centrally at 47 Patission Street, incurred extensive damage in the earthquakes of 1981 and 1999, but has now regained its position as the flagship of Italian culture in the Greek capital.

The building was designed by an unknown architect during a transitionary period for Athenian architecture, between the post-neoclassical era and 1930s modernism. Its eccentric facade carries clear Renaissance influences, making the building Athens’s most distinctive piece of Italian architecture.

Prior to its original opening as the Italian Cultural Institute of Athens in 1954, the building had also housed the Italian Chamber of Commerce and the Italian School.

A major earthquake in 1981 marked the beginning of its decline. But this lackluster period lasted far longer than had been anticipated. A second powerful earthquake, 18 years later, worsened the structure’s existing damage and nullified all previous repair work done.

As overwhelming as it was for the building, this second earthquake did at least spur the Italians into full action, working with Athenian architect Evgenios Ninios. The listed building’s exterior was reinstated to its original form, while preservation work was conducted on the main entrance’s impressive marble staircase and the murals.

The relaunched Casa d’Italia is on a double mission. Beginning this September, it will recommence offering Italian language lessons to Greek students in 10 ultra-modern classrooms. The institute’s other role of promoting Italian culture has already begun. The revamped building is showing exhibitions by two Italian artists: sculptor and designer Emilio Greco and painter Riccardo Licata.

Furthermore, an exhibition of works by Giorgio de Chirico and Alberto Savinio has been planned for September, while in October, the institute will host various events, over a 10-day period, honoring the two most recent Olympic cities, Athens and Turin. The most impressive news however, concerns an exhibition scheduled for November at the Byzantine Museum titled “Myth, Mythology and the Sea,” comprising a total of 80 works from major Italian museums.

A dance summer leads to fall August 15, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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After exceptional productions this season, September sees more international troupes taking the stage > Aida Gomez will star in ‘Carmen,’ at the Herod Atticus in September.

It’s been a good summer for dance. We’ve seen great performances at the Athens Festival, “Cafe Muller” by Pina Baus, shows by many groundbreaking artists at the Kalamata Dance Festival, whose agenda was particularly rich this year, as well as interesting presentations at the Gazi Dance Festival in Athens.

It’s not over. > More is in store next month in Athens, with appearances by significant acts from both the classical and contemporary domains.

September’s activity begins impressively with a flamenco dance-musical of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” starring Aida Gomez, troupe at the Herod Atticus Theater on September 10. The production is directed by Emilio Sagi and musical direction is by Jose Antonio Rodriguez.

Several days later, on September 13, 14 and 15, also at the Herod Atticus, the historic Royal Swedish Ballet, a 90-member ensemble, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of UNESCO with performances of “La Bayadere” choreographed by Natalia Makarova. The legendary dance figure will attend the Athens performances.

“La Bayadere,” an exotic story about endless love, mystery, divine intervention, revenge and justice is set in India. A princely warrior, Solor, and Nikiya, a temple dancer, pledge eternal love to each other. But they are respectively unrequitedly loved by Gamzatti, the local Rajah’s daughter, and the High Brahmin of Nikiya’s temple, who both conspire to destroy the couple. The State Radio and Television (ERT) Contemporary Music Orchestra, with Benjamin Pope as the guest conductor, will provide the production’s score.

Dancing sprites > On September 17 and 18, the Irish International Dance Company will present “Spirit of the Dance” at the Herod Atticus. Funds raised by the two shows, organized by Spectacles, will be donated to the Special Olympics Hellas team.

A winner of nine international awards, including prizes for Best Choreography and Best International Production, this production fuses traditional Irish culture with elements of Latin, tango, flamenco and salsa.

The plot of “Spirit of the Dance” is based on ethereal spirits that lead us to the world of dance and the pursuit of peace, happiness, and love for all mankind.

For one night only at the Herod Atticus on September 24, 14 soloists from the ranks of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters will present a classical ballet gala curated by the esteemed dance figure Vladimir Vasiliev. The production’s cast includes Diana Vishneva, Farukh Ruzimatov and Svetlana Lunkina.

September’s activity will end with performances of “The Myths of Ancient Greece” in Athens and Thessaloniki by the renowned contemporary Martha Graham dance troupe. The production’s Greek performances open in Thessaloniki, at the city’s Concert Hall for three nights, September 22 to 24. Two performances follow at the capital’s Herod Atticus on September 26 and 27.

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