June 2010


The region of Göreme is famous for its caves, monasteries and churches. The curious landscape of the valley, made up of volcanic tuff, owes its existence to the activity of Mt Erciyes, an extinct volcano whose lava formations dominate the area.

Wind and rain have worn the tuff formations into free-standing outcrops and rock-towers or “fairy chimneys.” There are many such outcrops in the region between Nevşehir, Ürgüp, and Avanos.

Rock-cut monasteries were first founded in the region by Basilius, archbishop of Caesareia, in the 4th century. Soon after the foundation of the first monasteries in the valley of Göreme, they became the centre of pilgrimage for Christians in search of physical and devotional succour.

Göreme was an important centre of Christianity during the 7th to 13th centuries. According to the chronicles of a 10th century monk who lived in the area, there were about 360 churches and monasteries of various sizes.

Most of the churches discovered to date contain frescos dating from the 9th to the 13th centuries, a time when the monasteries of the region enjoyed prosperity and tranquility. It was followed by a period of continual disturbance during which the Christians in the area suffered from sectarian disputes, the effects of iconoclasm and Arab invasions. [Iconoclasts not only effaced facial images, but further destruction was done on these frescos with graffiti by uncivilised tourists -- DHH].

The above information is quoted from: Visit Cappadocia: Cappadocia Travel and Tours Guide
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Yilanlı Kilise (the Snake Church): A simple barrel-vaulted church with a low ceiling and long nave, it is the name for the fresco of Saints Theodore and St George slaying the dragon (or snake as depicted in the fresco).

The church also has a fresco of Emperor Constantine and his mother Saint Helena depicted holding the “True Cross.” Legend has it that she discovered the cross upon which Jesus was crucified after seeing it in a dream, and that a piece of the cross is still buried in the foundations of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Other sections of the cross are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and in St. Peter’s in Rome.

Another interesting portrait is the one of Saint Onuphrius on the upper wall to the right of the entrance. The saint lived the life of a hermit in the Egyptian desert near Thebes, Egypt and is usually depicted with a long gray beard wearing only a fig leaf.

The above information is quoted from: Wikipedia: Churches of Goreme, Turkey

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Please note that in this series of eight posts, some of the photographs are not only from the Göreme Open-Air Museum, but also from Red valley, Rose valley, Soganli valley and Ihlara valley.

You can click on the images to view them in a larger format.

• Photographs on Travelling Cam © 2006 by Daphne Haour-Hidalgo

Azize Barbara Kilisesi (the Church of St Barbara): This church is situated behind the rock housing Elmali (Apple) Church. It has a cruciform plan, with two columns. The north, south and west arms of the cruciform are barrel vaulted, and the center, the east arm, and the east corners are domed. There are a main, central apse and two side apses.

Motifs were painted in red directly onto the rock. The walls and the dome are decorated in a variety of motifs including geometrical patterns, mythological animals and military symbols. The walls also have motifs resembling stonework. This church dates back to the second half of the 11th century.

The above information is quoted from: Heritage Travel: Goreme Open Air Museum

Elmali Kilise (the Apple 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.

from: Heritage Travel: Goreme Open Air Museum

Tokali Kilise (Church of the Buckle): The largest church in the region, it is situated on a slope a few hundred metres from the group of churches within the Göreme open-air museum. The entrance, today, opens onto a long, barrel-vaulted atrium which leads to a transverse nave, somewhat larger in scale. The nave is separated from an apse by a series of four columns supporting five arches. The apse is high and narrow. The narthex and atrium are known as the “old church” and the large flanking nave as the “new church.”

Both parts of the church date from various periods, as do the frescos. Those on the walls of the old church are dated to the beginning of the 10th century and are executed in a primitive provincial style. The frescos of the new church, which date to the second half of the 10th century, however, possess a quite well-developed realism. The use of blue pigment as in these frescos is iconographically unique for the region.

The walls are decorated with frescos of scenes from the New Testament, in frieze form, particularly scenes from the life of Christ. There are also representations of saints and scenes from the iconography of the saints. Among the frescos are those illustrating an account of the life of Basilius, archbishop of Caesareia.

The above information is quoted from: Visit Cappadocia

Cavusin (Nicaphorus Phocas) Church: This barrel-vaulted church, with one nave and three apses, is situated 2.5km from Goreme on the Goreme-Avanos road. Its narthex is collapsed. The church was built around 964/965.

Scenes: On the vault are the Annunciation, Visitation, Proof of the Virgin, Flight into Egypt, Joseph’s Dream Ii, Blessing and Mission of the Apostles, Adoration of the Magi, Massacre of the Innocents, Pursuit of Elizabeth, Killing of Zacharias. On the west wall are Entry into Jerusalem, Raising of Lazarus, Healing of the Blind Man, Descent from the Cross, Women at the Tomb. On the wall of the apse the Transfiguration. On the north apse Emperor Nicaphorus Phocas and his family, which held power and authority in Cappadocia.

The above information is quoted from: Heritage Travel:
Forgotten Cave Churches of Cappadocia

Cavusin [church] is situated at a distance of 4 km from Avanos, and 2,5 km from Goreme on the road of Nevsehir, Uchisar Avanos, just before leaving the village of Cavusin on the upper right side of the road. This church of which the architecture is not important, is famous for its frescoes which date from 11th century. It has three apses.

The colours are lively. Although much spoiled, one can discern two angel figures. At the entrance of the large apse in the middle of the main space with three apses Jesus Christ is represented while in the small apses by which it is flanked, we see St. Thomas and St. Battalamus and other saints from the Gospel — [circle] illustrated in red, brown green and white in particular.

The barrel-vault which we see shows us that this church had been constructed before the cross vaulted churches. The Gospel cycle describes the following scenes just like in the Tokali Kilise. Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, Raising of Lazarus, Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion, Death of Jesus Christ, Anastasis, Woman at the Empty Tomb, Baptism, Ascension.

In the village of Cavusin is the church of St. John the Baptist. The river bed crossing the village Cavusin is linked with another river bed at a distance of 11 km from the village. The names of the valleys crossed by the river bed are the Gulludere and Kizilcukur valleys. A road which passes through the village leads us to these valleys where 12 churches are to be found. The church at the point where the river bed converges is the most interesting and its frescoes date from 9th century.

The above information is quoted from: Explore Turkey: Cappadocia – Cavusin

Karabas Kilise (Black Head Church): Within the limits of the Soðanlý Valley Yeþilhisar district, it is 40 km from southeast of Ürgüp. Composed of two sections, the valley had continiously received immigrants starting from the Roman Period. The rock formations resembling to cones on the slopes of the valley were used as cemeteries by Romans while Byzantines made use of them as churches.

There are nearly 50 churches and caves in the region.

Karabaþ Church (Yeþilhisar) is located on the right slope of the Soðanlý Valley. Besides Karabaþ Church, the rocky places located there includes graves and constantly inhabited residences of the priest. Having been dyed in different times with several techniques, the church dated 11th century.

On the walls of the church there are the descriptions of Deesis, Herald, Birth, presenting Jesus to the Temple, Metamorphosis, Cruicifixion, His ascent from the cross and to heaven, and some other descriptions of the saints.

The above information is quoted from: Visiting Turkey

Purenli Seki Kilisesi (Church with the Terrace): Located in the first quarter of the Ihlara valley, around 100m from Kokar Kilise, you have to climb about 25m above the level of the river. It is composed of an entrance, a burial chamber and a double naos, separated by pillared arcades, each having an apse. The church is covered by frescoes classified as “archaic” but characterized by exquisite details, a strong sense of design and amazing freedom of expression.

The above information is quoted from: Heritage Travel: Ihlara Valley

Çarıklı Kilise (the Church with Sandals): The name comes from the two footprints at the bottom of the Ascension fresco at the church’s entrance (this fresco is said to be an exact copy of the one contained at the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem). The church is cut into the same rock as Karanlik Kilise. The footprints themselves, have many unconfirmable legends attached to them.

The church is carved into a cross floor plan with intersecting vaults. The church’s frescoes, which date to the 11th century, contain the four Evangelists, the Nativity and the Crucifixion, the Baptism, the Adoration of the Magi, and other New Testament themes.

The above information is quoted from: Wikipedia: Churches of Goreme, Turkey

Carikli (Sandals) Church: This two-columned church (two other columns being in the form of pillars), is cross-vaulted, and has three apses and four domes. The well preserved frescoes show the life of Jesus, Hospitality of Abraham, and images of the saints and the donors of the church.

Although it resembles both the Karanlik (Dark) and Elmali (Apple) Churches, the scenes of the Way of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross make this church different from the others. The figures are generally large. The footprints under the Ascension scene give the church its name, which means “with sandal.”

The church dates back to the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century. The center dome houses a picture of Jesus the Pantocrator with the busts of angels in the insets. On the central apse is Deesis, on the north apse Mary and the Baby Jesus, and on the south apse, a picture of St Michael.

The above information is quoted from: Heritage Travel: Goreme Open Air Museum

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