THE BEDESTAN – LEFKOŞA

A Beautifully Restored Building

During a visit to Lefkoşa earlier this year I came across a building I knew nothing about, this is the Bedestan which is next to the Selimiye Mosque and it was here that performances of the Whirling Dervishes were taking place.  I have already written about this experience but I would like to give a bit more information about the building itself which has been so carefully restored.  Like myself, I expect a lot of people are unaware of the tremendous efforts being made to try and restore some of the historical buildings of Lefkoşa.

The Bedestan – former St Nicholas Church – was initially built as a Byzantine Church, later an Orthodox centre and finally, with the advent of the Ottomans in 1571, a Bedestan (closed market).  During its life the building has undergone several restorations and partial reconstructions but by the 1930’s it had fallen into disuse.   The British attempted to do some restoration work in the 1950’s.

Between 2005 and 2009 restoration work took place and was EU funded and UNDP-PFF (United Nations Development Programme – Partnership for the Future) managed and was for the improvement and promotion of a monument of great architectural and historic value.  The EU funded and UNDP-PFF managed project was completed in two phases. 

Phase 1 was the structural work which was carried out between 2004 and 2006 and phase 2 was the conservation and restoration work which was completed in 2009.  It was found in 2004 that the building was in a very bad state with a collapsed roof and structural damage, some of which had been caused by earthquakes.  There was a massive investigation which focussed on recovering the original structure and improving anti-seismic properties and solutions had to be found to deal with the foundations, structure, columns and roof.

Phase 2 – The restoration and conservation work was started in June 2005 and it was found that the stones had a thick black deposit which was the result of burning tallow candles and oil lamps and this meant that the colour of the natural stones could not be appreciated, also the exterior of the building had suffered considerable damage caused by air pollution.  In order to re-use the Bedestan as a cultural centre it was necessary to carry out work on the roof, floor and windows and to also give accessibility to people with reduced mobility.

 In 2009 the project was awarded the prestigious European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award in the research category amongst a selection of 140 projects from 24 countries being appreciated for the completeness of the research and for the continuity given to the monument between its past, present and future needs”

The opening of the Bedestan to the public and the inauguration of the cultural centre took place in November 2009.

A great deal of funding and time has been spent on the restoration of this lovely building and it is so important that it is used to its best advantage and to keep it maintained for future generations.   Historical buildings cannot be replaced once they have gone so it is up to everyone who lives here to cherish what they have available to them.

By Margaret Sheard