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A Holy Site for Sailors: Our Lady of the Cave in Famagusta

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)
Author Bacci Michele,
Project Von Venedig zum Heiligen Land. Ausstattung und Wahrnehmung von Pilgerorten an der Mittelmeerküste (1300-1550)
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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book Maritime Famagusta
Editor , Walsh Michael
Publisher Brill, Leiden
Page(s) unknown
ISBN not yet known
Title of proceedings Maritime Famagusta


In the times of Famagusta’s emergence as a prominent port of trade, in the 14th century, sailors started visiting an underground church known in Italian as Madonna della Cava in the city’s outskirts as a holy site especially associated with the specific needs of navigation, such as protection against storms or becalmed waters. During the crossing of the dangerous gulf of Antalya, the holy site was invoked as a special protector, and it was the only church in Famagusta to be included in the litany known as the Sante Parole, where the holy sites located along the coasts of the Mediterranean and beyond were listed in geographical order. The present paper sheds some new light on the topographic location of this elusive place, and the ways in which it came to be used and worshipped by both Greeks and Latins in Famagusta. It discusses the widely accepted identification with either the present-day Panagia Chrysospiliotissa or the underground chapel near the Martinengo Bastion. Whereas the former’s far-off location in Kato Varosha does not match the earliest descriptions, the latter is unequivocally described in 15th and 16th century sources as a holy site in honour of Saint Thecla and associated with a miraculous spring. Indeed, a hitherto neglected text from 1546 locates Our Lady of the Cave in yet another location, close to the “Torre dell’Oca”, Famagusta’s lighthouse.