Venetian tour scrapbook, 2009-2010
book/album/sculpture in 3 parts
Photos Marcos Pinto
The present stone-faced walls, forming a circular plan with eleven bastions and three gates, each fitted with a drawbridge, were built by the Venetians, who ruled the island Cyprus from 1489 to 1571. Conceived by Giulio Savorgano, the work began in 1567 and was hardly completed when the Turks laid siege to Nicosia in 1570. Today the massive high walls and the admirable heart-shaped bastions stand as an amazing example of medieval military engineering.
The 11 bastions received the names of Venetian governors and generals: Mula, Quirini, Barbaro, Loredano, Flatro, Caraffa, Podocataro, Costanza, D’Avila, Tripoli and Roccas. The gates were named Porta di San Domenico (now Paphos Gate), Porta del Provveditore (Kyrenia gate) and Porta Giuliana (Famagusta gate).
Most of the stones used for the construction of the Venetian walls were taken from an older wall, done during the French crusaders’ rule, from 1191 to 1489, larger but less resistant then necessary. Venetians destroyed every monument, monastery, church and tree around the new wall perimeter, a sort of scorched earth policy against the Turks that supplied the needed material; the course of the river Pedieos was also diverted to flow outside the new walls. After the capture of Nicosia, on the 51st day of the siege, the Turks finished the walls, covering the upper parts of the walls with stones to their full height and building parapets on the bastions for the protection of the batteries.
Along centuries, Nicosia was invaded, looted, plundered and bombarded several times, damaged by severe earthquakes, to the extent that with the exception of the few existing ancient monuments, the rest of the imposing building have either been destroyed or fallen into ruin. Cypriots use to say that if you dig 50 cm to plant a tree you’ll find a piece of a relique or open an new archeological site but the restored Venetian walls are still there.
As part of his recent history, unfortunately, since 1974, after a long civil war that began in 1963, from a severe intercommunal fighting, the United Nations keeps a buffer zone (the ‘Green line’) between Southern and Northern Cyprus: a rusting barricade of barbed wire and oil barrels guarded by Greek Cypriots and Turkish troops in opposite sides, cutting the Venetian wall from east to west. Half of the old city, including 5 of 11 bastions situates in the Turkish occupied zone: North Cyprus. Other 5 bastions remain in South Nicosia, the capital of Republic of Cyprus, which sovereignty is recognized by the European Union. The 11th bastion, named Flatro, remain inside the UN Green Line, the destroyed no man’s land separating the 2 countries.
In spite of the ‘Master plan’ implemented in October 2001, to help restore the historic heart of Nicosia — the city inside the Venetian walls — on both side of the Green Line, the buffer zone remains untouched and a crossing wall still cuts the original circular shape of the wall. In both sides, buildings near the Green Line bore the signs of the struggle in their poor state of repair and general lack of usage and upkeep.
Comparing the Venetian walls to a beautiful tattoo drawn onto the vast Nicosia’s urban tissue, the wall that divides the 2 countries would be a kind of scar crossing this tattoo. Nowadays there is a certain ‘schizophrenia’ between the touristic map proposed by the Master Plan and the real circuit on the urban landscape because the map shown on the streets is the map of both past and future: the medieval design and the desired city, with no borders and no checkpoints. This map doesn’t reflect the actual urban and politic realities.
Therefore, Venetian tour scrapbook proposes a poetic way of overcoming the politic barrier/border between the two countries and rescue, if not the fluidity of the trajectory on the landscape, at least the sensation of continuity and visual fluidity, reconnecting the segments, interrupted by the war. The project is based on the photographic documentation of a touristic walk around the historical center, done in November 2009, when I tried to see and recognize the 11 bastions that punctuate the Venetian walls. During the visit to Flatro (the bastion that nowadays is located inside the Green line) and to the streets inside the buffer zone I was escorted by 2 UN soldiers. The digital collage book/album is divided in 3 parts which, when opened and tied between themselves, become a paper sculpture, star-shaped.
The book will have an edition of 10 + 2 a.p. but each edition will be done only by order.
Nicosia’s venitian walls:
. perimeter approx. 4.8 km (3 English miles)
. original height approx.12 m (40 ft)
. original width of the rampart approx. 5.6 m (18 ft)
. distance from tip to tip of opposite bastions 1.6 km (1 Engl mile)
. diameter of the circular walls, excluding bastions 1402 m (4,600 ft)
. circumference of the circular walls, excluding bastions 3200 m (2 Engl miles)
. area within walls, excluding bastions 1415 km2 (0,585 sq.miles)
(374 acres or 1,122 donums)
. perimeter of a heart-shaped bastion wall] 347.45 m (380 yds)
. average area of each bastion (2 ½ acres or 7 ½ donums) 10000 m2 (106,700 sq.ft)
. length of one curtain wall (straight wall between 2 bastions) 275 m (300 yds)
. area of walled city (401 acres or 1,203 donums) 1.63 km2 (0.63 sq.miles)
including walls and bastions but excluding the moat