Monday, June 6, 2016

In Nicosia's square of the Konak stands the symbol of Venetian Dominion still preserved

In Nicosia's square of the Konak (now Atatürk Square) stands the symbol of Venetian Dominion still preserved: the column which was always set up in the principal piazza of a Venetian town. This column is a particularly interesting example of such a monument on account of the inscription and coats of arms on its base. The shaft of grey granite which measures about 6 metres in height and about 70 centimetres in diameter is evidently the relic of some important Roman temple. The capital is a singular looking version of the Doric Order with hexagonal abacus. The pedestal and three steps on which the column is raised to a height of about 3 metres are also hexagonal in plan.

Six coats of arms carved in marble in an early renaissance style originally decorated the six faces of the pedestal: 1, under the Ducal Cap, on a shield, in chief three roses, in point two bars (Donato, or Donâ delle Rose); 2, a shield, bendy of three (Contarini); 3, a shield, party per pale dancette (Pesaro); 4, a shield, barry of three, on bars and spaces 21 besants, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (Michiel); 5, a shield, quarterly (perhaps gules and or Querini); 6, missing.

The column was of course intended to be crowned with a Lion of St. Mark which has, also of course, disappeared. The pedestal of the column stands on three steps, or rather two steps and a stone seat, this upper step or seat has a curious inscription cut in large elegant ltalian lettering on its perpendicular face which is apparently intended to be read:


The sentiment thus expressed would seem to resemble the motto " Fides Inviolabilis " on the bronze obsidional coins struck at Famagusta in 1570. In all Venetian provincial cities it was customary to erect two columns (*), or a column and a flagstaff, as emblems of sovereignty of the Republic, the column being crowned with a stone lion.

(*) At Famagusta the two columns still remain in front of the Proveditor's Palace, and also the much mutilated figure of the lion. The second column was generally used to support a figure of the patron saint of the city. Government edicts and public notices were publisbed at these columns, and executions of political offenders took place between them.

In Nicosia the Venetian column still survives, and until recently (**) a pole stood close by which probably occupied the same place as the original Venetian flagstaff. This pole was decorated with Turkish flags on festival occasions, much in the same way as in the days when the lion banner of St. Mark floated from it, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the "Serene Republic" in this principal piazza, of the capital of her most eastern possession.

The coat of arms of the Doge Francesco Donato (1545-1553) should be on a field argent, in chief three roses gules, in point two bars of the same. The family of the Donati is also known as Donado or Doná delle Rose. The Nicosia column was presumably erected in compliment to the reigning Doge Francesco Donati about the year 1550. (***) It was restored on a new site in the summer of 1915, at a few yards distance from its original emplacement. As originally built it seems to have been provided with a drinking trough to which a water pipe was carried through the base. This drinking fountain has not been reproduced.

(**) Note: George Jeffery, who wrote this text, was an eye witness around 1918! - Hans Doeleman.

(***) This Doge died at the age of eighty after a singularly prosperous reign of seven years and six months, having ascended the throne on the 24th November 1545. He was a great patron of architecture; he added much to the Ducal Palace, and completed the Library and Zecca (Mint) of St. Mark, Venice, as we see them at the present day.

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