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The region of Cappadocia

The region known during classical times as Cappadocia, stretched, before the Persian invasion, from the Black Sea to the Taurus Mountains and from the Euphrates to Salt Lake. During the Persian era the region was divided into two, with Pontus Cappadocia to the north and Cappadocia Major to the south.

The name comes from the Persian “Katpatuka”, meaning “land of fine horses”. Horses were bred there from as early as the mid-second millenium B.C., and throughout the classical period. Cappadocia was renowned for its stables, and paying tribute with horses became a tradition in the area.

A mountainous area in the main, the region possesses a hars, continental climate. It is watered by the Kızılırmak (Halys) to the north, the Euphrates to the east and the Seyhan and Ceyhan rivers to the south. Mount Erciyes (Argaios), Anatolia’s highest peak, rises from the Develi plains near Kayseri to a height of 3916 m. Of this mountain the historian Strabo said: “Argaios, the highest of mountains whose peak is constantly covered with snow” adding that ” Whoever climbs this peak-there being very few- it is said that they will see both seas, both the Pontus and the Issikos seas, given fair weather.” Mount Erciyes is the only volcano in Anatolia known to have been active in historical times. For centuries it was a dominant feature of local belief. The original peak was much higher but repeated eruptions reduced it to its present level before the volcano became extinct. Mount Argaios is surrounded by forests in a region notable for its paucity of trees. Animal husbandary, accoring to Strabo, was a major feature of the region’s economy, as was crop farming. It is a region whose inhabitants’ origins are extremely complex, inevitable result of a constant influx of migrants from very different backgrounds, many simply passing through but all leaving their mark on the region. The ancients referred to the Cappadocians as “white Syrians”.

Gregorius of Naziansos claimed that “In Cappadocia not only are fine horses bred, but a race of fine people”, while a fourth century writer lists a number of Cappadocians renowned for their knowledge, adding that the women of Cappadocia were as beautiful as goddesses.

A renowned red ochre dye was produced in Cappadocia and exported widely from Sinop before the Ephesian merchants reached the region. From the 1st century B.C. onwards it was transported to Ephesus for export, mainly to Greece and Italy.

Other notable products of the region are alabaster, which creamy white stone has long been quarried around Koçhisar and Ürgüp and rock salt and marsh salt, which are mentioned both by Strabo and Pliny. Sumerian texts refer to silver, iron, agate and amber as being among the products of the region.

A series of tablets known as the Cappadocia tablets are of considerable historical importance. They are the earliest known written documents of the history of Anatolia and were found at Kanesh-Kültepe near Kayseri.

Over a thousand of these tablets were excavated by the Czech archeologist Hrozny in 1925. these are now kept in museums in Kayseri, Istanbul and Ankara alongside other finds from the site of Kültepe made durring excavations by the Turkish Historical Society. The clay tablets, 3-5 cm. wide and 5-10 cms. long are mainly trade and legal documents inscribed in cuneiform in the old Assyrian dialect.

A definitive type of pottery first seen in Anatolia in the early Bronze Age-vessels decorated with geometric motifs over red or brown slip- has been given the title Cappadocian pottery, as it originated primarily from the region of Argaios. Examples of such ware were found at Alişar, Boğazköy and Kültepe.

There is also a definitive Cappadocia school of painting, related to a somewhat later period and the frescos and paintings of the Byzantine monasteries and churches of Cappadocia, on the domes, pillers and walls of churches in the region of Ürgüp, where the volcanic tuff rock has been carved out, somewhat unevenly, to make churches are covered with inaccurate inscriptions and faded paintings. There is also a considerable amount of folk art, sometimes rather crude. The art of the region, on the whole, is oriental in origin, with some regional contributions to style. A certain nobility and animation of expression is, discernable in the figures of Cappadocia.

History of Cappadocia


Important settlements of the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age are located in Cappadocia. Alişar , which is 45kms. southeast of Yozgat, was excavated from 1927-1932 by Chicago University and is an important site providing a complete chronology of settlement in Anatolia during those ears. The Chalcolithic dweelings found there were rectangular in plan with timber-rein-forced adobe walls. Burials below the floor of these houses were common. Geometric-patterned pottery on black slip, with white and yellow paste incrusted within incised contours was also a feature of the site. Pottery of the Early Bronze Age was characteristically geometrically-patterned Cappadocia ware, or Alişar III ware. Not only does the tumulus of Alişar provide a reliable stratigraphy for the pre-history of Central Anatolia, but it is the site of Alacahöyük where key evidence of the cultural life of the pre-historical period was revealed. The latter, in the district of Çorum, is one of the most important pre-historical settlements in Central Anatolia. Excavations carried out on the site between 1935-1946 failed to unearth the complete plan of a dwelling but several adobe sections over stone foundations were uncovered. Pottery, varying in tone from dark grey to black, is common and red burnished footed bowls were also found among votive gifts to the dead. Spiral copper rings and bracelets are evidence of the use of metal jewellry. The site also yielded fourteen royal tombs of the Early Bronze Age. These flat-roofed tombs were rectangular, stone-walled structures sealed with clay mortar. Excavations here revealed decorative and cult objects in the precious metals as well as iron swords, axes and arrow-heads. Among the most important finds were sun symbols embellished with horned bull-heads, stangs and solar symbols. These artefacts, now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, are important pointers to the economic and social environment of the time, which was most likely characterised by feudalism and an advanced metallurgy.

From the evidence of excavations and other research, settlement during the Early Bronze Age appears to have been primarily concentrated around the Kızılırmak basin. Many fortified city states were situated in that region, and some continued as centres of habitation for millenia. The first light to be shed on the ideas of the time was the discovery of the Cappadocia tablets, which marked the entrance of the peninsula into the historical age.


Although the first inscriptions in the two earliest Near Eastern civilisations in Egypt and Mesopotamia are known to date to around 3200B.C., the written word entered Anatolia only around the early 2nd millenium.

Anatolia, rich in gold, silver and copper, was forced to import tin for the making of bronze. The tin trade in Anatolia was in the hands of rich Assyrian merchants who formed independent trading centres-karums-in Anatolia under the patronage of local Anatolian rulers. These settlements were politically ineffective and were basically the first trans-state trading organisation. It was through the Assyrian merchants, who were familiar with cuneiform, that writing reached Anatolia. These karums were situated broadly between Malatya and Konya, under the authority of the principal trade colony, Karum Kanesh at Kültepe.

Kanesh-Kültepe, situated 20 kms. north-east of Kayseri, is one of the largest tumuli in Anatolia and was the earliest capital of the region. The settlement was founded on a hill some 550 ms. in length, 450 ms. in width and, at the most, 20 ms. in height. During the era of the Assyrian trading colonies, the tumulus was inhabited by indigenous folk, while the Assyrian traders inhabited karum itself. The city was headed by a feudal lord, and excavations have revealed evidence of the importance of agriculture. Cereals such as wheat and corn are also mentioned in a number of written documents.

There are accounts of beer-making and viniculture alongside evidence of milling in the area. Metalwork also figured among the activities of the area, with both precious metals and iron being worked. Bronze was produced from copper mined around Ergani and tin was imported from Assur.

Assyrian caravans of 200-250 ass-loads travelled the route from Assur to Kanesh, with overnight stops on the way in a series of caravansaray-like merchant inns. The costs of such caravans are recorded in great detail cuneiform on tablets. Merchants brought tin, fabrics of various kinds and perfumes, which they traded for metal wares. Tin was the commodity to yield the most profit, (approximately 100%) while the Anatolian rulers were paid tax equal to 1/20 of the value of the goods.

In the case of disputes, which occasionally arose between the merchants and the local folk, the tablets give evidence of a lawyer being sent from Assur. Written documents also given evidence of inter-marriage between Assyrian merchants and native women. Marriage contracts stipulated the rights of the native wives.

Investigation into the tablet inscriptions has revealed the location of some of the karums, notably Karum Hattusa at Boğazköy. The existance of another karum at Alişar is also known.


In the final centuries of the Early Bronze Age, Hittites started to infiltrate into Anatolia in groups. The Hittites, a people of Indo-European origin had settled in the Marasanda-Halys-Hitit-river basin by the beginning of the 2nd millenium. The name Hittite was given to these tribes in reference to the biblical tribes of Hit by modern historians. The Hittites referred to themselves as the Nesha, and to their language as the Neshi tongue, that is the language of the city of Nesha.

During that period the land of the Neshi had formerly been called Hatti and the people were called Hattians. The Hattian tongue was neither Indo-European nor Semitic in origin. It is not yet known exactly where the Hittites originated from, although research seems to point towards the Caucasus as a recognisable stepping-stone to Anatolia.

Pithana, king of Nesha, and his son Anitta, whose names are mentioned in the Cappadocia tablets brought about the unification of the independent city states to create the first centralised governmental system. Some scholars claim that Nesha and Kanesh (Kültepe) to be one and the same, and believe that Kussara, where Anitta reigned, was Alişar.

Around the mid 18th century B.C., the Assyrian trade colonies were disbanded. The monochrome and painted pottery of the period, known as the early Hittite era carry on traditional Anatolian shapes and patterns. Animal-shaped ritual drinking vessels (bibru) in the form of whole animals or animal heads are typical of the ware of the period.

The Hittite state founded by Anitta, king of Kussara was ruled around 1600 B.C. by Labarnas I. This king moved the capital from Kussara to Hattusa, city formerly razed to the ground and cursed by Anitta, and changed his name to Hattusili, meaning “the one from Hattusa”.

The contribution of the Hittites, who formed a state in Anatolia to last from the beginning of the 2nd millenium B.C. to the end of the 8th century B.C. was mainly to plastic art,especially major sculpture and relief carving. The Sphinx Gate reliefs of Alacahöyük are the most typical examples of this.

At the beginning of the 12th century B.C. Anatolia was overrun by tribes coming from the west during the Aegean migrations, and all the important Anatolian cities were razed to the fround, destroying the Hittite state. From excavations carried our at Hattusa and other Hittite sites, it would appear that the Phrygian culture overlaid that of the Hittites. A dark age followed until written records again appear in the 8th century.

The Phrygians, according to the ancient historians, were Thracian origin. This description is now accepted by many modern scholars. The archaeological evidence confirms the existance of migrations from Thrace to Anatolia between 1190-1100 B.C., after which many tumuli in Central Anatolia show no signs of habitation for a considerable period. The Phrygians did not immediately settle in any one place, but probably moved eastwards towards the Kommagene region. After remaining in that region for some time, they then moved down into the Halys bend and the region of Assyrian, Urartu and the late Hittite state through Persia and Syria.

After the destruction of the Hittite state a series of Neo-Hittite kingdoms emerged, whose existance and approximate boundaries can be traced in relation to the various regions of Anatolia. Assyrian documents mentionthe Tabal kingdom in Cappadocia which included Kayseri, Niğde, Nevşehir and Ürgüp. Further information about the Tabals has been discovered on a number of late Hittite inscriptions in and around Kayseri. 11 such inscriptions, in hieroglyphics were discovered between Kayseri and Nevşehir. The capital of the Tabal kingdom was, at that time, Tuvanuva (the classical Tyana). Kültepe was also a town of some importance at the time.

On the obelisk of the Assyrian king Salmanassar III (858-824 B.C.) on Mount Nemrut, is inscribed the following: In the 22nd year of my reign I crossed the Euphrates for the 22nd time. I went as far as the kingdom of Tabal. There I received the tributes of the 24 kings of Tabal. This indicates that the country was ruled in the form of a confederation. The Ivrizkaya relief, considered the finest monument of the late Hittite period is situated in what was once the Tabal kingdom.

The Tabals became Assyrian vassals in the 7th century, and with the destruction of the Assyrian state in 612 B.C. they were absorbed into the kingdom of Lycia.

Cappadocia was subsequently conquered by the Median king Cyaxeres at the beginning of the 6th century. During the wars berween the Persians under Cyrus (559-529 B.C.) and the Lydians under Croesus (560-540 B.C.) Cappadocia came under Persian domination along with the rest of Anatolia.

The Persians settled in Cappadocia particularly as the environment was similar to that of their native country. The volcanic rock country of the Erciyes region was also suitable for the practice of their own fire cult. During the reign of Cyrus, Cappadocia became one of the five main satrapies of Anatolia, stretching from the Kızılırmak in the west to the Tyana in the south. It was amalgamated into the third satrapy during the reign of Darius I (522-486 B.C.), which as one of the Anatolian vassal regions paid tribute amounting to 360 talents of silver, 1500 horses, 2000 donkeys and 50000 sheep to the Persians, according to Strabo.

Documents dating from the era of the Persian kingdom are interesting in that they illustrate the relationship between Persia and Cappadocia during that period. In the inscriptions of Darius I, Cappadocia is mentioned as one of the 23 countries under Persian rule, of which is said: these, my countries… pay me tribute… and obey my commands, whether it be day or night, whatever they may be … I have been generous to those who have been careful, and I have punished those who have been my enemies. I have imposed my rule of law on those countries.

Xerxes (486-465 B.C.) who succeeded Darius, also mentions Cappadocia as being among the countries which paid Persia tribute. In the Persepolis inscriptions of this king is written: I became king of the lands beyond the borders of Persia; these are the countries which I ruled, which I brought me tribute, which obeyed my laws, and edicts.., mentioning Cappadocia among the vassal states. A relief on the fire temple of Persepolis dating from the reign of Xerxes also shows Cappadocia offering mules as tribute.

It is widely accepted that Cappadocia was a Persian vassal during that period. The people of the region were gradually integrated-orientalised-into Persian customs and way of life, a feature which persisted even in post-Christian Cappadocia. The Cappadocians were quick to absorb Persian culture with which they eventually identified, adopting the Persian pantheon and religious cults, as well as the calendar, which remained in use in the region until the fourth century A.D. Even costume, as we see from the Persepolis relief showing tribute-bearing Cappadocians, are strong evidence of Persian cultural influence.

Cappadocia was divided into two while under Persian rule, in about 360 B.C.;the northern part, including Sinop, Turhal and the region, becoming a separate satrapy, and Cappadocia Major in the south remaining independent, with the city of Mazaka as capital.


The city of Mazaka was the centre of settlement for the Musski tribes who entered Cappadocia together with the Tabalas. The ancients believed that the city derived its name from the mythical ancestor of the Cappadocians , Mosoch. It is thought that the Persian name is derived from “Mazeus”, the Phrygian Zeus, which later became “Mazaka”. The city was renewed during the Hellenistic period during the reign of the Cappadocian monarch Ariarathes V (163-130 B.C.) when it was renamed “Eusebeia” after one of the royal titles-“Eusebes”. We know that the city became known as Caesareia sometime between the 12-9th centuries B.C. from a reference in the work of Sextus Rufus: Mazaka, the largest city in Cappadocia, was renamed Caesareia in honour of the emperor Augustus Caesar.

The city was considered the most important in the region, and is widely mentioned in the ancient sources as “the largest and finest city in Cappadocia”, and “most distinguished of cities without an equal throughout Anatolia”.

After the defeat of the Persians, Cappadocia was conquered by Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic age, up to the Halys-Kızılırmak. After his death Anatolia was divided between the diadochs and Cappadocia fell to Perdikkas. Ariarathes I, who governed the satrapy to the north, opposed this but was captured and killed. Perdikkas restored order to Cappadocia, appointing Eumenes as satrap. Subsequently, we know that for sometime the satrapy was under the domination of the Syrian Seleucid monarchy and was, in fact, referred to in the ancient sources as ” Seleucid Cappadocia”.

After being freed from the Seleucid yoke, Cappadocia retained its satrapies for some time until the kingdom of Cappadocia was founded by Ariarathes III (255-220 B.C.) . coins were struck for the first time under Ariarathes, who founded a new city, an urban model for other Hellenistic monarchs, which was named Ariatheia. This city became the capital of the new kingdom. During his reign, the first moves were made towards the Hellenisation of the region, a political approach which was to be adopted by subsequent rulers.

In 96 B.C. Cappadocia came under the rule of Mithridates VI, king of Pontus, and with the subsequent rebellion of patricians, the kingdom became a vassal of Rome, finally becoming a Roman province in 17 A.D., under Tiberius. The province was bordered to the north by Samsun (Amiscus), by the Euphrates to the east, the Taurus mountains to the south, Galatia and Pamphylia to the west.

The capital of the Roman province of Cappadocia was Caesareia-Kayseri. It was subject to tribute and was governed by a procurator. Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) installed two Roman legions in Cappadocia to protect it against attacks by barbarians and the governership of the region was given to a propraetor, with the rank of imperial governor, in place of a procurator. Cappadocia became the centre of the Roman boundary defences against the Parthians, and was provided with military roads during the reign of Trajan (98-117 A.D.). The empire minted the money needed for its policy of expansion in the east at Caesareia, where there had been a mint since the time of Cappadocia kingdoms. Much of the coinage emitted bore the image of Mount Erciyes.

Cappadocia was conquered by Artaxerxes, a Neo-Persian monarch, during the reign of Severus Alexander (222-235 A.D.), but subsequently a treaty was concluded with Rome. A continuing fear of persian domination, however, led to the construction of fortifications around Caesareia.

Attacked twice by the Goths in 254 A.D. and 267 A.D., Cappadocia also suffered from the advances of the Palmyrian queen, Zenobia, was, effectively used by the Romans as a campaign route to the east.

During the time of Basilius, powerful archbishop of Caesareia, relationships with Rome under the emperor Julianus Apostata (361-363 A.D.) were at a low ebb. As evidenced by a letter addressed to Basilius from the emperor, stating: I order you to send me 2000 gold coins as I set out for Caesareia. I shall still be on route (when you receive this) and will enter combat with the Persians shortly. If you do not obey my command, I will put the whole of Caesareia to ruin, I will destroy all her ancient and gine buildings, and restore all her temples and statues so that the whole world should know of the supremacy of the Roman empire, and the futility of revolting against it. Thus threatening to restore pagan structures and cult statues to the city and destroy Christian buildings, the emperor being a pagan himself.

Indeed, the same emperor had Caesareia removed from the imperial list of cities, and to express his dissatisfaction with the Christian city, forced tribute, both money and goods with torture from the churches in and around Caesareia. He also pressed the monastic orders into military service and ordered all Christians to pay the tributes given by Christian serfs.

On the death of Julianus Apostata in the Persian wars in 363 A.D., Caesareia was freed from persecution. Basilius founded a huge orphanage outside the city gates, a city in itself, a complex containing a cathedral, an archbishopric palace, a library, monastic cloisters, a guesthouse and an infirmary for lepers. The complex was entitled Basileias.

During the reign of the emperor Valens (364-378) the province of Cappadocia was divided into two, namely, Cappadocia Prima and Cappadocia Secunda.

The capital of Cappadocia Prima was Caesareia, and Tyana (Kilisehisar) was the capital of Cappadocia Secunda.

The region remained in the Eastern Roman empire after the division of the empire in 395 A.D. ın 1072, the Seljuks invaded the area, and Cappadocia remained a vassal of the Seljuks, whose capital was Konya, until the reign of Manuel Comnenus (1143-1180 A.D.).

Invaded again by Tamerlaine in 1405, the region reverted to Seljuk hands after the Mongol withdrawal to Bukhara, finally becoming Ottoman territory.


Rock Churches and Frescoes

The region of Göreme, is of considerable historical and archaeological importance, 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, and extinct volcano whose lava formations dominate the area. Wind and rain have worn the tuff formations into free-standing outcrops and rock-towers—“fairy chimneys”. There are many such outcrops in the region between Nevşehir, Ürgüp and Avanos, where rock-cut dwellings, churches and monasteries have long attracted the attention of travelers and scholars. The first accounts date from 19th century western travellers to the area.

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.

The region was first named Korama according to the 6th century account of the life of St. Hieron. It is said that this saint lived in a shelter carved out of the rock which was extremely difficult of access. Since this account refers to a much earlier saint, Hieron is not the earliest martyr to suffer death in these troglodyte shelters.

According to the English historian Skene, St. George was also of Cappadocian origin. It appears that the legend of St. George and the dragon is related to older legends of Mount Erciyes and the snake.

Indeed, the dragon guarding a magic plant is a common feature of Anatolian legends. St. George may be one of the various heroes who slay the mythical creature. This perhaps accounts for the frequency with which one encounters the image of St. George and the dragon in the rock-cut churches of Göreme.

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. I followed a period of continual disturbance during which the Christians in the area suffered from sectarian disputes, the effects of iconoclasm and Arab invasions.

Although Cappadocia cannot be considered an artistic centre as important as Byzantium, the monastic school created here possessed its own vitality and style. Here one may encounter the frescos of monastic artists intent on giving devotional expression to the church where he himself prayed and the monastery where he lived. The visual images resulting from this simple devotion are not the works of any particular school of art. It can be said that the effects of the style of the capital have combined with folk art to produce an art in which stylised forms of some sophistication are blended with naive drawings.

Rock Churches of Göreme Open Air Museum


This church is the largest in the region and 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.


This is among the churches of the Göreme open-air museum. It has a typical cross-vaulted inscribed-cross plan, with four roughly-hewn columns and a square interior. A narrow passageway leads to the inner court, and from there one enters the church via a second narrow passage. The iconostasis before the main apse has been damaged. Otherwise the frescos decorating the walls and ceilings of the church have preserved their original vitality. They are dominated by the warm yellow ochre much used here. The paintings may be compared with those of the Karanlık church and the Çarıklı church which, like these, are dated to the 11th century. Flaked off in places, the red-dawbed Christian symbols of the iconoclastic period may be discerned beneath the painted surface.

In a medallion in the central dome is a painting of Christ Pantocrator, and a Deisis in the apes. Besides these are a number of scenes or related to from the Christ cycle, including the Journey to Bethlehem, the Nativity, the Baptism of Christ, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, Entrance into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, Entombment, Women at the Tomb, Christ on Mount Olives and the Ascension and the Hospitality of Abraham and the Three Hebrews. The scenes of the Baptism of Christ and the Crucifixion are relatively well preserved.


The church is carved out to the rear of the outcrop containing the Elmalı church, in the open-air museum of Göreme. It is cruciform in plan with two free-standing pillars carved out of rock, and two partially engaged at the corners of the carved out walls. Much of the decoration of the church, which is dated to the 11th century, is in the form of red ochre daub painted directly onto the rock surface, which has led to the church being seen as typical of those carved out and decorated during the iconoclastic period. The daubed motifs are mainly the symbols of Christianity. The triple cross motif over the right-hand apse is notable, the central cross being contained in a nimbus. This represents the figure of Christ. Four red studs between the arms of the cross represent the nails of the Cross and the two flanking crosses represent the two thieves crucified with Christ. A Deisis and part of the figure of a saint executed in fresco may also be seen to the left of the entrance. The colours of these frescos are dull and the figures crudely drawn. Red is the dominant colour.

The figure of Christ Pantocrator is to be seen in the apse, while the patron of the church, St. Barbara, is represented on the northern wall alongside the figures of the warrior saints, Theodore and George, who are portrayed on horseback, facing each other.


This is two-celled church with an elongated, flat-roofed nave fronted by a barrel-vaulted atrium. It is thought to be a small funerary chapel. It is in the Göreme open-air museum. The apse has been carved out of the left-hand wall. The church may be dated to the end of the 11th century. There are some daubed red ochre geometrical shapes as well as a number of frescos in the church.

On the vault over the apse are depicted St. Onesimos,followed by the two warrior saints, George and Theodore, facing each other on horseback. St. George on a white horse carries a lance, as does Theodore on a red horse, and both are engaged in slaying the dragon at their feet. Next to them stand the figures of Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.) and his mother, Helena. Both are portrayed with auras, indicating their acceptance as saints. Between them they hold the True Cross.

On the opposite vault wall are depicted three saints figures, St. Onophrius, purported to have been a sinful woman, and on repenting to have changed into a man. This figure is depicted naked. Flanking this is the figures of Thomas in a benedictory pose, and St. Basil bearing the Holy Book.

At the opposite end of the vault stands Christ Pantocrator in the lunette, flanked by a small, anonymous figure.


Part of the Göreme open-air museum, the church is called the “dark” as it is, indeed, very dark within. The barrel-vaulted nartex is reached via a narrow winding staircase. From there one enters the rectangular nave. It is typical cross-vaulted cruciform-planned church with dome on four pillars. A fresco of the iconostasis is damaged. The church has one small window. The lack of light has preserved the vitality of the frescoes. Both the plan and decorations of this church are strongly reminiscent of the Elmali and Carikli churches. The paintings are characterised by figures with meaningful facial expressions and figural movement, while an attempt has plainly been made to animate the painting through the detailed use of architectural and decorative elements. The extensive use of blue, a relatively rare pigment,is notable. There is no chronological order to the frescos, with the most important scenes from the Christ cycle being illustrated without regard for their sequence. The scenes illustrated are mainly related to the to the feast of the Liturgy. The scenes shown in greatest detail are the Annunciation, the Journey to Bethlehelm, the Nativity, Baptism of Christ, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Crucification, the Women at the Tomb, Christ on Mt. Olives and the Ascention.

The two biblical scenes of the Hospitality of Abraham and the Three Hebrews are also included among the frescos.

Carikli Church

This church is reached via an open staircase and the only source of natural light for the interior is through the entrance. Named after the carik (sandal) marks on the floor, the nartex is in ruins. The subject matter of the frescos is typical of these churches. The artist appears to have used the frescos of the Karanlik church as a model in places. These three churches- Karanlik, Elmali and Carikli- probably date the same period.

In the centre of the dome is a fresco of Chirist Pantocrator, with busts of angle in madelions surrounding it and portraits of the four evangelists in the pendentives. A Deisis on the main apse wall is flanked by six saints.

The figures of the Madonna and Child are in the northern apse and a bust of St. Michael in the southern. Other frescos include scenes from the Christ cycle: the Nativity, the Babtism of Christ, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entrance into Jerusalem, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, Three Women at the Tomb, Christ on Mount Olives and the Ascension.

Valleys and Rock Formation

Mounts Erciyes, Hasandag and Golludag were active volcanoes in the geological periods. Alongside with many other volcanoes, eruptions of these volcanoes started in the early Miocene (10 million years ego). The lava produced by these volcanoes, under the Neogene lakes, formed a layer of tufa on the plateaus, which varied in hardness and was between 100 and 150m thick. Other substances in the layer are ignimbrite, soft tufa, tufa, lahar, ashy clay, sandstone, marn, basalt and other agglomerates. Plateaus, having been essentially shaped with the lava from the bigger volcanoes, were continuously altered with the eruptions of smaller volcanoes. Starting in the Early Pliocene Period, the rivers in the area, especially Halys (the Red River), and local lakes contributed to the erosion of this layer of tufa stone, eventually creating valleys and rock formation of the area its present shape.

The interesting rock formations, known as ‘fairy chimneys’, have been formed as the result of the erosion of this tufa layer, sculpted by wind and flood water, running down on the slopes of the valleys. Water has found its way through the valleys creating cracks and ruptures in the hard rock. The softer, easily eroding material underneath has been gradually swept away residing the slopes and in this way, conical formations protected with basalt caps have been created. The fairy chimneys with caps, mainly found in the vicinity of Urgup, have a conical shaped body and a boulder on top of it. The cone is constructed from tufa and volcanic ash, while the cap is of hard, more resistant rock such as lahar or ignimbrite. Various types of fairy chimneys are found in Cappadocia. Among these are those with caps, cones, mushroom like forms, columns and pointed rocks. Fairy chimneys are generally found in the valleys of the Uchisar-Urgup-Avonos triangle, between Urgup and Sahinefendi, around the town of Cat in Nevsehir, the Soganli valley in Kayseri, and in the village of Selime in Aksaray. Another characteristic feature of the area the sweeping curves and patterns on the sides of the valleys, formed by rainwater. These lines of sedimentation exposed by erosion display a range of hues. The array of collar seen on some of the valleys is due to the difference in heat of the lava layers. Such patterns can be seen in Uchisar, Cavusin (Gulludere), Goreme (Meskendir), Ortahisar (Kizilcukur), and Pancarlik valleys.

Underground Cities of Cappadocia

From the 7th through the 10th centuries, the Christian Cappadocians were under siege from Arab raiders. They took refuge in about 40 underground cities. These were cities in the truest sense, some stretching as deep as 20 stories below the surface and able to accommodate as many as 20.000 people. Each had dormitories, dining halls, swage disposal systems, vinery and air ventilation chimneys as well as cemetery. Large millstones sealed off the entrances from enemies. Who actually build these cities is a mystery. Some exhibit traces of Hittite settlements. The Greek historian Xenophon mentions Cappadocian underground dwellings as early as 401 BC. The Christians probably expended what they found; certainly the cities took centuries to complete.

Underground City Of Derinkuyu

This underground city was out of rock below the district of Derinkuyu.

The entrance to the city is not far from the present town of Derinkuyu. A steep, narrow passage with cutout steps leads down to successive floors beneath the ground. Some sections of this long tunnel are so narrow that a person can pass through only with great difficulty. Small chambers branch off the main tunnel on both sides. Millstone shaped doors, which rolled into place in time of danger lie at the entrance to these chambers. A large chapel is found on the lowest level. This is cruciform in plan with a narthex before the nave. In an adjacent chamber are an airshaft and a well filled with water.

This whole underground complex seems to have been made as a bolthole and for defence purposes.

Underground City Of Kaymakli

This curious underground city is to be found in the town of Kaymakli, 20 km. From Nevsehir. The city was carved out of the rock below the town and around it in the rock outcrops. The plan is quite different from that of Derinkuyu. It is a warren of different levels and clusters of number of chambers, stores and a number of chapels and shrines. The cambers are generally clustered around a hall. Some chambers containing funerary daises and niches.

There are 8 levels in all, cut in tothe rock where suitable. Care was taken to ensure that when cutting through the layers each floor would maintain structural stability, with ceilings and floors being carved out deftly.

Each section or cluster is centred an airshaft. Tunnels linking the various clusters and levels could be cut off with huge millstone bolt doors seen from time to time.

The chambers are approximately 2 metres in height. The chapels and shrines on some amphora shaped dug out holes placed along the walls of some rooms, these holes being daubed on the inside to seal them. They were probably used for grain storage. This underground city an important dwelling system probably created in the 6th to 10th centuries to protect the city from possible attack.

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