The Building

Presidential Palace was formerly the Government House, the residence of the British Governor of Cyprus at the time of the British rule (1878-1960). The first British High Commissioner Sir Garnet Wolseley, who arrived in Cyprus in 1878, stayed temporarily at the Metochi of Kykkos Monastery, outside the walls of Nicosia. Later on, he changed residence and lived at the Commissioner’s House, which was a wooden house imported from abroad and placed in the area of the Presidential Palace. In 1925 the Commissioner’s house was renamed to Government House. In the course of the popular uprising of 1931 it was burned down and a decision was made to build a new Government House based on Cyprus traditional architecture. The new Government House was designed by a British firm and its construction was undertaken by the British colonial Public Works Department in Cyprus. It was preceded by visits to various traditional buildings in Cyprus in the course of which worthwhile local architectural elements were recorded and copied.

Building Description

The Presidential Palace has a U-shaped floor plan. The building is placed around a courtyard and specifically on its three sides. The general floor plan is reminiscent of that of the older Government House and is characterized by symmetry. The building wings are elongated and incorporate semi-open spaces, arcaded porticos, mainly around the courtyard. The arches along the porticos of the ground floor are Gothic-period ogival while on the first floor they are semi-circular traditional arches (an element that was first found in the Monastery of Acheropiotos in Lampousa, Lapithos). In addition, the capitals on the columns are decorated with Byzantine elements.

The northern wing is mostly two-story, while in the center of it rises a tower of two additional floors, a copy of the medieval castle of Colossus. The wings to the east and west of the courtyard are both ground floor, while the south side remains open. The roof is pitched and covered with local tiles, while there are domes, elements of Byzantine and Ottoman times. The main entrance is placed in the center of the north side of the building and is highlighted by the creation of a projecting two-story building element of ashlar stone characterized by an arcaded portico on the ground floor and a smaller covered arcaded porch on the first floor. The arches of the entrance portico and the above porch are Gothic-period ogival arches. Also, a characteristic element is the British coat of arms located between the central arches of the two floors.

The Rebuilding

After the independence of Cyprus and the departure of the British Governor in 1960, the Government House was established as the official Presidential Palace of the Republic of Cyprus. The Presidential Palace was destroyed on 15 July 1974, during the coup against the Archbishop Makarios III. Everything was burnt down, except the standing walls, which were also damaged by the fire. It was rebuilt a few years later with financial support from Greece and is being used ever since as the office and residence of the President of the Republic of Cyprus.