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Churches

 

Göreme Open Air Museum

Eski Gümüşler Church

Eski Gümüsler Monstery

eski-gumus1_s.jpg (11152 bytes)The rock-hewn monastery of Eski Gümüşler is 10 km east from Niğde. Trough a rock-cut passage is a large courtyard surrounded by rock-hewn dwellings, crypts, a kitchen and refectory with deep reservoirs for wine and oil. As you enter the courtyard, look at the floor to see a small hole fitted with a propeller to show the constant updraught from the mysterious nine-metre-deep shaft beneath. The crypt to the right of the entry passage has several skeletons still in place. Across the courtyard another crypt, beneath protective covers of wood and glass, holds a well-preserved and apparently undisturbed skeleton.

The lofty main church, to the right off the courtyard, has the best-preserved Byzantine coloured frescoes in Cappadocia, painted from the 7th to 11th centuries. The Virgin and Child to the right of the altar-space is particularly affecting, with Mary given a Mona Lisa smile. The frescoes of two Saints and the Presentation are very nice. The church’s great columns are of course completely unnecessary, but were left when the rock was cut away to mimic the appearance of a traditional temple, The cross-hatch motif was favoured during the Iconoclastic period (725- 842) when sacred images were prohibited and artists resorted to geometries, a preference soon picked up by Islam.

 

Göreme Open-Air Museum Churches

Tokalı Church7 (Church with Buckle) - Elmalı Church19 (Church with Apple) - Saint Barbara Church20 -  Saint Catherine Church21

Yılanlı Church28 (Church with Snake) - Çarıklı Church22 (Church of the Sandals) -  Karanlık Church23 (Dark Church) -  Refectory24

Kılıçlar Valley churches:

Kuşluk Church31(Church of Virgin Mary)

Kılıçlar Church29 (Church of the swords)

The other churches:

Eustathios Church11

El Nazar Church1 

Saklı Church2a (Hidden Church)

General Information

The Göreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side by side ,each with its own fantastic churches. It is obviously the first sight to be visited by any traveller in Cappadocia, standing as it does in the very centre of the region with easy access from all directions. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes whose colors still retain all their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco technique.

The area covered by this Open-Air Museum forms a coherent geographical entity and represents a historical unity. There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches tables and benches. Each is associated with a church. All the churches of the Museum belong to the mid to the late 11th century. These churches can be divided into two groups according to the workshops which executed them: the Column group and the Yılanlı group.

The Yılanlı group includes the Yılanlı Kilise, the churches of St. Barbara and St. Catherine. In these churches the panels of paintings are separate from each other, ie. they do not follow a continuous scheme. Most of them have narthexes which function as a funeral room.

There are at least 18 churches and chapels in the Museum area. Some have fixed metal grills at the entrance for safety reasons.

The small sizes of the churches conform to St. Basil’s emphasis on the necessity for small monastic units. The extraordinarily rich interiors provide an amazing contrast to the very simple exteriors. The churches are named, throughout Cappadocia, after characteristics attributed to them mostly by the local Turkish population.

Your entrance ticket is also valid for the Tokalı church, located outside the Open-Air Museum. The normal way of visiting the Museum is by proceeding along the path in a counter-clockwise direction. This route is carefully labelled. Beginning with the Nun's Convent you will proceed to the St. Basil, Elmalı, St. Barbara and Snake churches, the Refectory, the Karanlık and the Çarıklı church.

 

TOKALI CHURCH

 

It is a complex made up of 4 main chambers. The entrance to the New Church having a rectangular plan with longitudinal axis is made through the barrel-vaulted single-naved Old Church. This rock settlement is divided with arches into three sections. Containing the most important samples of paintings, the building has been decorated in various periods. In the Old Church section, frescoes dated to early 10th century, painted in bands of rich red and green, represent scenes from the Bible. The indigo dominating the main chamber frescoes in the New Church, is a feature discerning the structure from the others. Among the rock churches in Cappadocia, Tokalı has the best paintings narrating the life of Christ in most detail. The church is decorated with the Infancy (childhood of Christ), Ministry and Passion cycles, with several episodes from the life of St. Basileios.

 

ELMALI CHURCH

 

One of the most prominent buildings in the area with its vivid colors, the church is a groin-vaulted structure with cross-in-square plan, having four columns and a central dome. It has beautiful frescoes dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. And where these have fallen off, you can see simple red-painted ornaments from the iconoclastic period. The frescoes are narrating scenes from the Bible and the life of Christ, the Hospitality of Abraham and Three Hebrew Youths. The building derives its name from the apple orchard collapsed a long time ago, in front of the main entrance.

 

SAINT BARBARA CHURCH

 

Situated right behind the Elmalı Kilise, the church dating to the first half of the 11th century, is a cross-in-square building with two columns and crosswise barrel vaults. The walls are decorated with red-painted ornaments and symbolical figures. There are panels of Christ in the main apse, and St. George and St. Theodore Killing the Snake painted on the wall opposite the entrance. Right next to it, is a fresco depicting the Virgin Mary embracing Christ. The church takes its name from the description of St. Barbara.

 

SAINT CATHERINE CHURCH

 

Situated between the Karanlık (Dark) Church and the Çarıklı Church, The Chapel of St. Catherine has a free-cross nave and narthex.   The Central Bay is covered by a Dome and the cross arms are Barrel-Vaulted.  Its apse is closed by a templon.   The Narthex has nine floor graves and two arcosolia (burial niches).   Only in the nave of the Chapel are some decorations with figures.   The pendentives are decorated with carvings.   The Chapel of St. Catherine, built by a donor named Anna, dates back to the 11th Century.  

Scenes:  Deesis in the apse with the templon, below are doctors of the church (Gregory, Basil the Great and John Chrysostom), on the south wall of the northern arm is St. George, Opposite St. Theodore, St. Catherine and other Panels of Saints.

 

YILANLI CHURCH

 

It has a longitudinal plan, consisting of two chambers. The front section is barrel-vaulted, while the back one has a flat ceiling. The red ochre ornaments imitate hewn stone plait. Frescoes dated to the 11th century, are painted directly on the wall. Opposite the entrance, there is Christ with a book in his hand, and at his left, on both sides of a large cross, are Emperor Constantine and Helena. Right next to it, the Killing of the Snake by St. George and St. Theodore is depicted. On the opposite wall, Onophrios can be seen with a sapling in front of him, also the Apostle Thomas, and the founder of the building, St. Basileios holding a book in one hand and sanctifying with the other.

 

DARK CHURCH MONASTERY (KARANLIK KLISE MANASTIRI)

 

It is one of the best buildings with well preserved frescoes. The structure is a cross-in-square church, with four free-standing columns. Scenes from the Bible do not follow chronological order here, contrary to the practice in other churches. Annunciation, Journey to Bethlehem, Nativity, Baptism, Transfiguration, Rising of Lazarus, Entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion, Women at the Empty Tomb, Anastasis and Ascension scenes are more vivid, effective and detailed than elsewhere. The church takes its name from its very dark interior- this peculiarity being the reason of well preserved frescoes dating to the middle of the 11th or early 13th centuries. The building has been under restoration in recent years.

 

ÇARIKLI CHURCH

 

Situated behind the Dark Church, the front section of the building, accessible through some iron steps, has collapsed. The church has a cross-in-square plan with two columns, and crosswise barrel vaults. Frescoes dated to the 11th century depict Nativity, Baptism, Adoration of the Magi, Rising of Lazarus, Entry into Jerusalem, Betrayal, Crucifixion, Transfiguration, Women at the Empty Tomb, Anastasis and Ascension. Even though other frescoes resemble similar examples in the Elmalı and Karanlık Churches, the Hospitality of Abraham, is a feature not likely to be found in other churches. Its name derives from the sandal-like (çarık) traces under the Ascension scene.

 

 

KILIÇLAR VALLEY

 

If you continue your tour on the high plateau behind Tokalı Church you will reach fascinating Kılıçlar Valley (kılıç means "sword" in Turkish, and the valley gets its name from the sword-like fairy chimneys). The valley of Kılıçlar is one of the places in Cappadocia for trekkers, with its high cliffs, a tunnel which forms part of an old drainage system, cave dwellings, cultivated vineyards and a very outstanding church.

It is rather difficult to descend to the Kılıçlar Valley from the high plateau behind the Tokalı Church and it is advisable to take the road down from the Göreme Open-Air Museum to Göreme for about 300 meters and then turn right to enter the valley.

 

Kusluk Church31(Church of Virgin Mary)

 

It is situated on the slope where the Swords Valley (Kılıçlar Vadisi) starts. His way is through a tunnel-like narrow passage on the path to the valley. This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Göreme region. Christ is depicted in the apse, between the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Monograms of most of the figures are inscribed. Scenes from the Bible are depicted realistically. The frescoes dated to the first half of the 11th century, are very vividly coloured. The building is in danger of collapse, due to the erosion.

One of the loveliest churches in Göreme, 300 meters from the museum proper on a slope behind the Tokalı Church via a footpath. Where the slope overlooks the Valley of the Swords there is a tunnel-like narrow passageway directly to the church.

The architecture is unusual, incorporating a nave covered by two narrow parallel vaults. The chancel and connecting apse are higher than the nave, just as in the Tokalı Church, but here they are divided off by columns and arcades. Despite its intricate plan the church is small, giving it an almost cozy, chapel-like feel. Its paintings are another source of pleasure, with warm reds and yellows contoured in black upon cool blue-gray backgrounds. One saddening fact is that erosion has deeply gouged this church.

 

Kılıçlar Church29 (Church of the swords)

 

The church stands approximately 400 m north of Göreme Open-Air Museum in the valley. The key can be obtained from the caretakers in the Museum.

Kılıçlar Kilisesi is a cross-in-square church with four free-standing columns and a large dome resting on them. The eastern corner bays are also domed. It has three apses, the middle one having two seats for the priests.

This is one of the largest churches in Cappadocia, painted shortly before 900,and contains very beautiful frescoes. The Infancy (early childhood of Christ), Miracles, Sufferings, Ascension and the Burying of Virgin Mary are depicted masterfully and vividly coloured.


 

OTHER CHURCHES

 

Belha Monastery

 

The monastery is from the sixth century, but the position of the do columns of the galleries and its perspective point to the Late Antiquil od. The strong and showy structure, the whole of the ceiling under 1 influence and the application of the vaulted ceilings indicalre the a Parthia influence. The entrance vestibule of the xrionasteıy has com collapsed and the chambers and columns have disappeared.  It is tl that this monastery was very likely an important temple of the cult c in the period prior to the Christian Byzantine era. It was later transf into a church.

 

Saint Eustathios Church

 

 The church is located between the Tokalı Church and Mother Mary Church. The church contains frescos based on the bible.

 The church is dated to the early 10th century and there is a carved inscription stating the dates 1148 - 1149.

 

El Nazar Church

 

This T-shape planned building cut into a fairy chimney, is situated on a ridge that overlooks the gardens on the right-hand side when coming to the Zemi Valley from Göreme. The church has paintings dated to before the 10th century of scenes from the Bible, and depictions of saints. The arches of the building are adorned with medallions.

Follow the streambed to the right of the Avcılar/Göreme road and, on leaving it, go some 800 meters further to arrive at a large rock in the form of a kind of tent. This is one of the most interesting churches in he whole Göreme region, called El Nazar. Hewn from an isolated cone of rock, it is a cruciform church with vaults as the three longer arms of the cross, and a horse-shoe shaped apse. There are tombs in the east wing, and a basement into which the floor has in large part collapsed, while the east wing is in complete ruins. Despite these ravages of time, however, the paintings on the ceiling are quite well preserved.

Executed on a straw-and-lime plaster surface, these paintings date from the 11th century. On the arches opening onto the side vaults from beneath the central dome there is a series of rosettes depicting Old Testament prophets, and another portraying the saints. The remaining surfaces are devoted to the Life of Christ, from infancy through the miracles to the Passion. This subject matter is in conformance with the style Jerphanion terms archaic.

The paintings in this church are the handiwork of two artists, the first of whom did the ceiling and one or two Bible scenes, for example the Flight from Egypt. Flesh tones have been painted on a light green background, with shadows and shading left green, while full light is captured in white. Outlines are done in red.

The second artist worked on the west and north wings, as well as the apse. In his work there is no green background. The flesh tones are pinker, and eyes are outlined in white.

 

The Hidden Church (Saklı Klise)

 

Between El Nazar and the main road, it stands on a ridge overlooking the valley. Before it has been discovered in 1957, the entrance being closed with rubble, the frescoes were preserved in a quite good condition, and most of them painted directly on rock surface, are red. Among these, dated to the second half of the 11th century, the scenes of Crucifixion, Death of the Virgin, Metamorphosis, St. John the Baptist in the Desert are interesting.

Entering the Göreme Valley one climbs a rough trail up the righthand slopes to a plateau. Another 300 meters and a gradual descent begins to the next valley, also on the right.

Here one comes upon Saklı (The Hidden) Church. The entrance was blocked off by a landslide at least five hundred years ago, and for all that time the church went unused, practically unnoticed. Only in 1957 was it rediscovered. The architecture has roots in the Mesopotamian tradition; the frescoes are quite unusual.

The central volume is divided in two by a pair of columns and three arches. The western half is flatroofed, while the eastern is covered by a broad vault. Of the three apses at the eastern extremity of this half, two have crumbled away to become one.

The plan of Saklı Church may stem from the Mesopotamian tradition. As the blues and greens have dissipated, it is a monochrome red that now predominates. The style of painting seems to belong to the 12th century.

The flat roof is decorated with crosses and geometric motifs. The pictures are similar to those in the Church of Meryem Ana (Mother Mary), but in the Saklı there are more Bible scenes. The backgrounds are, strikingly, scenes from Cappadocia.

The stretch between Göreme and Çavuşin is full of fairyland vistas impossible to describe. One may come on foot following the streambed that leads from beside the Avanos road.

A dust road through the village of Çavuşin will bring you to a pair of breathtaking valleys, Güllüdere and Kızılçukur.

 

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