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BELLAPAIS ABBEY





The present day name is the corrupt form of the Abbaye de la Paix' or the Abbey of Peace.

 The building is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic art, and the most beautiful Gothic building in the Near East.  The first monks who were known to have settled here were Augustinians who had to flee from Jerusalem when the city fell to Selahaddin Eyyubi in 1187. It is known that the original construction was built between 1198-1205, and a large part of the present day complex was constructed during the rule of French King Hugh III (1267-1284). The cloisters and the refectory were built during the reign of Hugh IV (1324-1359). 

Following the Ottoman conquest the monks were turned out and the building was given to the Greek Orthodox Church. The monastery begins with a gate, whose tower is a kater addition, and a forecourt. The church which is situated on one side of the courtyard is the best preserved part of the monument and dates from the 13th century. The murals which have survived above its facade are thought to be from the 15th century. The forecourt leads to cloisters of 18 arches. Under one of the northern arches there are two Roman sarcophagi which once served as lavabo. The door being the sarcophagus leads to the refectory of the monks. The marble lintel above the door contains the set of coats of armas of the royal quarterings of Cyprus, Jerusalem and the Lusignans. This is an exquisite sample of Gothic architecture and the finest room in the monastery. The room contains a pulpit for addressing the monks during their meals. Six windows in the north wall which illuminate the room are reinforced by a rose window in the eastern wall. A door in the western wall leads to the kitchen and cellar built under the refectory. The rooms between the refectory and kitchen are thought to have once served as lavatories. The east side of the inner courtyard was occupied by the chapter house and work rooms (undercroft).  The first of these functioned as the administration office of the abbey and retains its interesting Gothic stone carving: a man with a double ladder on his back, another man represented between two sirens, a woman reading, two beasts attacking a man, a woman with a rosary, a monkey and a cat in the foliage of a pear tree under which a man holding a shield is seen, and a monk wearing a cloak.  The column standing at its centre is thought to have come from an early Byzantine church. The rooms of the monks occupied the second floor above this section. A Pair of stairs on the south of the inner courtyard lead to the treasury room in the North-west corner of the monastery.