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

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

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