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(The informations in this section are from the official website of Ministry of Culture and Tourism. / http://www.kultur.gov.tr/EN)

Nevşehir, The Capital Of Cappadocia                                                            

In the mythology of the Hittites and the Phrygians, the region of Nevşehir lies on the planet of Cappadocia, whose creation was the work of the Gods of the Volcanoes and which was shaped by the soft and magical hands of the Gods of the Rains and the Winds. Cappadocia represents a site where Nature and History have commingled in the most beautiful fashion in the world. While geographical circumstances created the Fairy Chimneys, human beings in the course of the historical process sculpted the interiors of these Fairy Chimneys to construct their dwellings and churches, which they decorated with frescoes that have survived as witnesses of civilizations thousands of years old. To preserve this incredible cultural treasury and prevent its capture by others, Thales of Miletus himself divided the Kızılırmak river (the ancient Halys) into two sections to facilitate the crossing by the forces of the Lydian king to oppose the Persian invading forces.

The first scientific calculations in history were also carried out here. Nevşehir constitutes the capital city of the planet Cappadocia. But, the renown of Cappadocia has so intensified as to extend beyond the nation's boundaries and overwhelm that of Nevşehir itself, which has nearly been forgotten. Here, therefore, we hope to conduct a complete survey of the historical and cultural aspect of the Nevşehir area.

The natural beauties and cultural wealth in the environs of Avanos, Zelve and Göreme have attracted the attention of historical writers and travellers for centuries. Historically, Cappadocia was first known as ‘Katpatuka’ in the Persian period, signifying a region where fine horses were bred. It has not yet been resolved whether the word is of Hatti, Luwian, Hittite or Assyrian origin. Surviving documents make mention of horses and horse- breeding in this area.

During the Great Kingdom period (1460-1190 B.C.), the Hittites assigned great importance to horses and horsebreeding. Correspondingly, they imported expert horsebreeders from the land of the Mitanni and transmitted their expertise to future generations by inscribing their words on clay tablets. As evidence, we might refer to a work written by a young Mitanni horsebreeding specialist named Kikkuli, which has been recovered from the contemporary Boğazköy state archives.

Precious histories have survived from the pens of Xenophon (401 B.C.), Strabon of Amasya (18 A.D.), Gregoir of Nissa (334-94 A.D.) and a young vineyard keeper of Machan (now, Göreme) (495-515 A.D.). Paul Lucas, appointed by the French Royal Court to travel in the countries of the Mediterranean, was the first observer of the modern period to acquaint Europeans with this fascinating area.

On his way from Ankara to Kayseri in the month of August 1705, Paul Lucas, who had been commanded by the French king Louis XIV to conduct research in the countries of the East, was astonished upon his arrival in the vicinity of Avanos and Ürgüp. The geological structure-which closely resembles a fairy-tale land the curious spatial units of rock in which the inhabitants dwelled, the churches and the colourful world of their interiors left him in a state of amazement.

After Lucas returned home, he published his notes in a two-volume book of travels in Paris in 1712. Describing his observations in the Cappadocian region, he produced a rather fanciful description heightened by his imagination, thus: ‘...When I first came upon the ancient structural ruins lying on the opposite bank of the Kızılırmak, I fell into a state of utter bewilderment. Here stood countless-heretofore unknown-pyramidal formations.... Each of these formations possessed a beautiful door, a charming staircase by which to gain entrance and large windows in all the rooms to secure illumination. Within a single rock mass had been hewn a number of living quarters, each lying one above the other.... They numbered not several hundreds, but more than a couple of thousand. At first, I assumed that these pyramids represented dwellings that had formerly belonged to monks. For their shapes recalled that of ecclesiastical caps. Afterwards, however, I detected that they possessed a variety of forms.’

On his second journey through the region in 1714, he characterized the Fairy Chimneys as the ‘ancient cemetery of a vanished city.’ This prompted a great scandal in the court of King Louis XIV. The members of the Court were convinced that Paul Lucas was a pathological liar (mithmom, anie); in fact, the French ambassador in Istanbul asserted that he wanted to make a personal investigation of the region to determine whether or not Paul Lucas was telling the truth. Comte Desalleurs confirmed that the facts of the circumstances were true and that pyramidal shaped entities existed. When the book of travels was published it aroused a great public debate in Europe. Ürgüp and vicinity, which were shown in the engravings, represented quite a remote locale for the Europe of that day. Moreover, the information supplied by Lucas was not supported by ancient sources on this subject. The fantastic depiction furnished by Lucas was very tantalizing to the West, but for some it was beyond belief and greeted with incredulity. The German writer, C.M. Wieland (1753-1814) expressed such criticism, as follows: ‘It is impossible to give credence to the claim that such a great number of houses in the shape of pyramids exists when the subject is not given the slightest notice by any of the ancient writers or travel books.’

A more realistic description of Ürgüp and Göreme was provided by the French traveller Charles Texier who visited the region some one hundred fifty years after Lucas. This well-known architect, who was assigned by the French government the task of conducting research in Anatolia, examined the Cappadocia region in a painstaking manner in the course of his journeys undertaken in 1833 and 1837. Publishing the results of his travels and research in Anatolia in a monumental, six-volume work titled Description, de l’Asie Mineure, which included engravings and plans, he states at one point that ‘...Nature had never displayed herself to the foreign observer’s eye in such an extraordinary fashion. I have never heard of a more long-lived and dream-like natural phenomenon in any other region of the world.’

European travellers after Lucas in the nineteenth century came to Cappadocia to conduct studies of a scientific nature; yet, they were unable to disguise their astonishment upon their encounters with this bizarre geology. The English traveller W.F. Ainsworth recounts the surreal appearance of the volcanic valley, thus: ‘After crossing a valley that extends the length of the river, we suddenly found ourselves in a forest composed of rocks of conical and columnar form which surrounded us in an utterly bewildering manner. It was as if we were touring the ruins of some very ancient and vast city. Some of the cones carried on their peaks large and randomly shaped fragments of rock.’

In July 1837, W.J. Hamilton, a prominent English geologist, arrived in the area and, lending support to Texier’s view, agreed that ‘Words fail one in attempting to describe the appearance of this extraordinary locale.’ The leading Prussian field marshal Moltke, who visited Ürgüp on his way from Nevşehir to Kayseri, noted the characteristic tissue of the region by stating that ‘An ancient citadel perched on a rocky cliff, which rose up perpendicularly and into which a number of caves had been hewn in a peculiar manner, overlooked the town. The houses of Ürgüp were of stone and constructed in a most elegant manner.... The mountain valley lying behind Ürgüp was covered with vineyards and cleft by deep ravines. On their slopes stand fantastic castles such as are depicted on old wallpaper.’

Fuller information concerning the rock churches appeared in the work titled Description de l’Asie Mineure, which Texier published in 1862. In the volume he published jointly with the English architect R.P. Pullan in 1864 on Byzantine architecture, the rock churches of Ürgüp and environs are thoroughly discussed. The Englishman W.J. Hamilton expressed his amazement by exclaiming that ‘Words are inadequate to describe the appearance of this extraordinary place.’ Scientific studies and publications began in the late nineteenth century. Physical analyses of the Cappadocian region and the utilization of historical sources were executed by scientists, such as A.D. Mordtmann, W.M. Ramsey, J.R.S. Sterret and Charles Texier. The monumental work published by G. de Jerphanion between the years 1907-12 was the first extensive art historical study to examine in a systematic trainer the rock churches, monasteries and the wall frescoes on their interiors. In 1958, the French Nicole Thierry and Catherine Jolivet published those churches excluded from the study by the priest Jerphanion, thereby assisting in endowing Cappadocia with its present-day renown.

Earliest Evidence Of Human Habitation In The Region

Though paleolithic remains can be identified in the area, this cultural phase occurs fairly late and possibly represents the last paleolithic era. In any case, this is supported by all the data that has been thus far recovered. The reason may be that the Würm glacier covered the Anatolian plateau for long ages and that the eruption of volcanoes, in particular, would have made human occupation impossible. Yet, despite the absence of evidence, it is undeniable that the valleys of the Cappadocian region where the river banks and sources of fresh water are abundant offered extremely favourable living conditions for early human settlement. It should not be an error to assume that tufa represented a warm habitation space for human life, because it could usually be easily worked-by obsidian, for example, a much harder stone-without the need for metal. The rocky heights along the sides of the valley were also obviously appropriate for protective purposes. We know that for hundreds of thousands of years human communities maintained their existence by gathering fruit and hunting and fishing and that they settled along river banks because of their critical dependence on water. In this respect, the Kızılırmak river undoubtedly served an historical function. The lack of confirming evidence for these events is a consequence of living nature in Cappadocia; over time, successive communities reworked the traces they encountered, and each resettlement effaced and obliterated the older imprints. This has made it very difficult and even impossible to date the spatial volumes in the rocks of Cappadocia.

Near Gelveri, in addition to the notable settlements and artefacts of Hittite origin, which bear a prehistoric connection to Continental European cultures, English archaeologists have recovered paleolithic and neolithic stone tools at Avla Tepesi, eight kilometres southeast of Ürgüp. Similarly, the British Archaeological Institute of Ankara discovered quite interesting finds in a study of prehistoric sites conducted between1964-66. The results of this surface field research headed by Ian Todd identified a number of settlement sites-the earliest of which was Neolithic-most of which were in the Nevşehir and Niğde areas. The towns of İğdeli Çeşme, Acıgöl and Tatlar, which lie within the provincial boundaries of Nevşehir, are a few of the sites that witnessed very large Neolithic era settlements. The excavations of Acemtumulus being conducted at Yeşilova near Tuz Gölü (at Tat), which lies 18 kilometres northwest of the town of Aksaray, are of prime interest. The finds from the dig can be assigned dates ranging from the late fourth to the mid-seventh centuries. A settlement with houses arranged in a regular fashion has come to light beneath Byzantine structures. The artefacts suggest that this was an undefended settlement occupied with agricultural cultivation. The level (Level 3) postdating the Byzantine settlement, which is no doubt Roman, produced pottery of Hellenistic character and may be dated to the first century B.C.-first century A.D. The cultural stratum of approximately four meters that lies beneath this level is also associated with the Hellenistic period.

These settlements, which comprise four structural levels, all exhibit evidence of fire and earthquakes. Level 4 settlement was terminated by a violent fire. Level 5 preserves the terror of earthquake with the remains of two elderly persons in tortured postures, caught in the act of attempting to protect themselves from the onslaught. The twisted bodies of two youths were found in Level 7 which had been levelled by fire. After Level 8, houses of megaron make their appearance. A wall of sundried brick was uncovered in Level 16, which had been laid on a terrace of fill. Level 17, dated to 600-500 B.C., contained burnished red earthenware with geometric motifs. Cultural artefacts of the Hittites and the Early Bronze age occurred in Levels 19-24. City wall fragments exhibiting a simple technique and pots of Hittite style were recovered from Levels 19, 20 and 22. Remains of the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages up to 4,000 B.C. were common. The excavations begun in 1968 in the vicinity of the Hacıbektaş tumulus (Sulucakara tumulus), which contains relics dated to the Early through Middle Hittite periods and the Phrygian, Roman, Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Those undertaken in 1967 by the Italians at the tumulus of Topaklı have brought to light settlements from the Early Bronze age to the Byzantine period in 24 structural strata. These furnish proof that the Nevşehir region is a very ancient site of human habitation.

Here, commercial and associated relations among the settlement units emerged to meet the essential needs connected with the transition to sedentary life; communities that possessed and produced the basic materials and commodities for which deoxy and was expressed became leading centres in every era. At the close of the Early Bronze Age (3200-1950 B.C.), Assyrian merchants termed the region within the Kızılırmak crescent the ‘Land of the Hatti.’ Assyrian city merchants in northern Mesopotamia established a widespread and active commercial network in Central Anatolia (1950-1750 B.C.). The names of nine major trading centres and hundreds of small cities appear in the hundreds of records of commercial correspondence made of baked clay that have survived; among these is the name of Nenessa. Furthermore, one of the natural main routes that linked Aksaray and Kayseri followed the banks of the Kızılırmak River. Evidence confirms the existence of settlement during the Hittite era. The Assyrian tablets, however, furnish valuable data on Avanos, which today is located within the province of Nevşehir; we are therefore enabled to acquire information about the Nevşehir region by tracing the history of Avanos.

J.C. Gardin and P. Garelli reported in the early nineteenth century that investigation of the commercial routes of the Assyrians had revealed that their terminal points lay as far as the environs of İncesu, Aksaray, Konya, Bor, Niğde and Ereğli and that Nenessa and Washania were situated within the boundaries of this region. Moreover, tablets inform us that two mer-chants who could travel from Kanesh (Kayseri, Kültepe) to Burushhattum (Acemtumulus) in four days commonly passed through Washania, Nenessa and Ullama. In 1926, the linguist Emile Forrer deciphered the name ‘Zu-Wynassa’ on one of the tablets in the course of his research in the Boğazköy Hittite Royal archives. Zu-Winassa, the Hittite name, most likely corresponded to Nenassa, as it was known in the Assyrian language. Nenessa (or, St. Vanot, as noted by Gregoir of Nissa) was transformed, according to the research of N. Thierry, to Venessa and Avanos. In Ottoman records, Avanos is called, alternatively, ‘Enes,’ ‘Uvenez’ or ‘Evenez.’

Around the year 2000 B.C., city states make their appearance in central Anatolia. During this era, the Hittites established their rule ca. 1750 B.C. when they arrived in Central Anatolia, the land of the Hatti. In roughly f 1200 B.C., the tribes who came from Thrace and the Mediterranean-Aegean E tribes who appear in the legends of Homer as the destroyers of Troy put an G end to the Hittite empire: Following this invasion, Anatolia entered an age of darkness that lasted for four hundred years, and it became subject to the Phrygians.

Around 800 B.C., we witness the reappearance in the region of the Hittite kingdom of Tabal. The Tabal kingdom, which achieved fame for its horsebreeding, fell in the mid eighth century B.C. The centre of this kingdom was Ttıvanna (Tiana-Kemerhisar) near Bor. The first settlers in the Cappadocian region were the Hatti, the Luwians and the Hittites. The Assyrians founded a trading colony in this region between the close of the third millennium B.C. and the beginning of the second millennium B.C which is known as the age of the Assyrian trading colony. The cuneiform tablets in Assyrian that were discovered at Kültepe (Kanesh) known as the Cappadocian tablets (early second millennium B.C.) are the first written records of Anatolia. Study of the tablets and decipherment of the language has revealed that they were produced by Assyrian merchants. These tablets, which shed light on the social and political life of the period, are essentially commercial and economic agreements. These records inform us that at this time small dynasties and principalities existed in Central Anatolia, which were that the local king independent of a central authority.

Kanesh (Kültepe), the most prominent city of the period, was the centre of trading activity in Anatolia. Expanding greatly in the second half of the ninth century B.C., the Tabal kingdom assumed total control over the region. Confirmation of this situation is gained from the hieroglyphic rock inscriptions occurring at Hacıbektaş-Karaburna, Topada (Acıgöl), Gülşehir-Sıvasa (Gökçetoprak). The region, which had formed the nucleus of the Hittite empire, subsequently came under the hegemony of the Phrygians and the Persians. Invasions of the region were conducted by the Cimmerians and the Scythians and, after 700 B.C., were incorporated into the empires of the Lydians, the Medes and the Persians, respectively. After the sixth century, Nevşehir and the surrounding area came under the rule of the Lydians. In the mid-sixth century, the Lydian king Croesus crossed the Kızılırmak in an attempt to halt the Persians (575-46 B.C.). Thales of Miletus discovered for King Croesus a solution to the problem of crossing the Kızılırmak River. The historian Herodotus relates the following: ‘At that time Thales, who happened to be present at the bivouac, had a deep trench dug that led toward the upper edge of the bivouac site in a semi-circular form; thus, the river flowed from its normal bed to the trench and, after meandering through the area in the opposite direction, it once again returned to its original bed. Now, once it had been divided into two streams, it was a simpler matter to cross the river.’ After the defeat of Croesus in this battle, the region came into the hands of the Persians (Achaemenads). The Persians did not compel the populace to migrate. But, they left the administration of the great land holdings in the hands of the military elite of Persian origin and the local religious leaders. Here, a fusion occurred between the local culture and the Persian culture. Herodotus describes the Persian cultural structure, as follows: ‘They do not know how to make religious icons, temples and altars; they slaughter their sacrifices on the tops of mountains, and what they call Zeus is the divine dome of the sky. They dedicate their sacrifices to the sun, the moon, the earth, the fire, the water and the wind.’ The fire-worshipping cult of the Persians became particularly important in the Cappadocian region; the volcanic peak Argaios (Mount Erciyes) was especially convenient for this cult. The Persian gods, unlike the gods of other religions, had no true temples of worship. Instead, certain grounds were sacred to them; these holy sites were scattered throughout the region, with which were associated numerous fire temples. Greek writers called these sacred grounds ‘Pirhethee’ and their priests ‘Piree,’ that is, ‘those who make fires.’ In the Zend language these priests were called ‘Atharvan,’ or fire priests. Fire temples were situated on elevated terrain within the sacred grounds and consisted in a stone niche covered with coals that burned continuously. The Atharvan (Magian priest) wore a long, white robes and, on their heads, wool caps whose peaks fell level with the mouth; each day they would enter the holy grounds with a bunch of branches and sing hymns for about an hour at the base of the fire temple. On occasion they would offer libations as sacrifices or they would slaughter an animal. The one who offered the sacrifice would employ a heavy, wooden hammer for this task, for the ‘use of iron was strictly forbidden....’ The most sacred of the holy grounds in Cappadocia were called in Persian ‘Zela’ (Zile). Professor Emeritus Günaltay specifically reminds us that Strabon reports that the Zela sacred grounds were consecrated to the three most popular gods, whose names were Anaitis, Omanos and Anadates. The Persian beliefs associated with fire worship were rapidly adopted by the Cappadocians. The Persians were fortunate in their encounter with a perfect geography to contribute support their tenets. The region, where fires and volcanoes were common formed an ideal terrain for these beliefs. Historians report that temples devoted to fire gods were in existence until the fourth century A.D.

Under Persian rule, the region began to be known as ‘Cappadocia,’ and a Cappadocian satrapy was established. In the Persian period, animal husbandry was quite developed in Cappadocia, and it is known that the Persians received their tax payment of 360 talents in kind, in the form of 1,500 horses, 2,000 mules and 50,000 sheep. In contrast to the commercial and money economy in effect in the coastal regions, a landlocked commerce held sway in the interior. The Persian state, whose economic opportunities remained constricted, gradually lost power. Prof. Emeritus Günaltay has asserted that ‘During the conquest of Iran, fertile lands were granted to the elite while the villagers were reduced to the position of serfs bound to the soil. When the Persian nobility lost their wealth through extravagant entertainments, elaborate chases and a superficial life, they would sell their villagers to Greek or Roman slave traders. Only the slaves (serfs) that served in the fire temples were exempt from sale. Such events provide sufficient information as to why the Mesopotamian culture of the era of the Kültepe tablets completely vanished. Because of such social tragedies, the Cappadocians no longer recalled their national traditions and, therefore, came to submit to the influence of Ionian culture.

Young Alexander, the king of Macedonia, produced the collapse of the great Persian Empire through a series of victories over its armies in 334 B.C. and 331 B.C. This peace was broken by the Eastern campaign of the Macedonian, Alexander the Great (333-23 B.C.), and an ongoing series of wars was pursued by Alexander's generals and their descendants. Our earliest historical knowledge indicates that Avanos was founded in the year 332 B.C. by a lieutenant of Alexander named Eumenes. The Alexandran era was followed by the establishment of a Cappadocian kingdom, whose capital was located in Kayseri (Mazaka). The Cappadocian throne at Mazaka changed hands several times. In addition to the constant turnover of political powers, the inhabitants of Cappadocia had become exhausted by the attacks and pillaging by the invaders of the region. Following the transformation from an empire to a republic by Rome, Cappadocia became increasingly subject to oppression. Rulers were unable to advance beyond acting as a satellite of Rome. Cappadocia became a Roman province in Asia in 17 A.D. During this period, because of the poverty in which Cappadocia had fallen, the Roman emperor Tiberius was forced to lighten the oppressive tax burden on the region. The following year, a Roman governor (legat) was appointed to Cappadocia. As Strabon relates (18 A.D.), Avanos had now become a very wealthy and developed city. Avanos (Venessa) was the most important of the three prominent cities of the region. Avanos, after Kayseri, as a religious centre was second in size and significance and the third largest political administrative centre of the state, after Kayseri and Comano Because the chief priest was third most eminent functionary in the kingdom's hierarchy, he had an income of 3.000 heradul and 15 talents (the equivalent of 500 kilograms of silver at the current exchange rate). The servant Euphrates also informs us that there was a well-established and powerful aristocracy in Venessa. The most fascinating information on Avanos is contained in the writings of monks.

The first of these is Gregoir of Nissa (334-94 A.D.) who, in his letter to his friend Adelphois, thanks him for the hospitality he displayed to him at his villa when he was passing through Venessa; the villa was apparently the most luxurious of those in the capital. According to the letter, Venessa is a very developed city provided with all the amenities and possesses a splendid monument to martyrs and wonderful fruit orchards and vineyards from which high quality wine is produced. This letter by Gregoir of Nyssa is the only extant record describing Avanos in antiquity. His letter goes on to relate that ‘...It is difficult to find words to describe the beauties of Avanos One must see it with one's own eyes... I have visited numerous places in my life and I have heard many things; and every place about whose beauties I have been told I have gone to visit. But, after seeing Avanos, none of them bears any distinction by comparison. Neither the famed Helicon nor v the Isles of Bliss nor the plains of Sission nor Thessaly-all fall short of Avanos. Nature that is fashioned in such an aesthetically pleasing manner as it is here has no equal in the whole world. One should view the Kızılırmak River (Halys) whose waters of crimson hue flow pass near the feet of shepherds grazing their flocks. On the opposite bank of the Kızılırmak, the beauty of the intense green of the fruit trees, the flourishing vineyards of extraordinary bounty and the pear blossoms set like pearls is incomparable. Rather than natural beauty, it seems to possess the rare and excellent beauty of a painting from the hand of a superior artist.... ‘He goes on to state that at the entrance to the city stood a church in the process of construction. Though its roof was as yet incomplete, it exhibited a supreme loveliness; the church referred to be very probably, as N. Thierry has suggested, the Dere Yamanlı church.

The official policy of Diocletianus (284-305) in persecution of the Christians had no success. The succeeding period of Constantine I. witnessed a stirring time for religious activity; it was a time when it was regarded as ordinary to believe in a number of cults simultaneously and brought about a phenomenon of religious syncretism. Even though Constantine I accepted Christianity by 312 A.D. at the latest, this should not imply that he turned away from the tradition of idol worshipping. It is known that he continued in his old beliefs and customs, that he was even an adherent of the sun cult and that he offered support and assistance to this cult. Gregoir of Nissa states in his letter that included in the Christian religious ceremonies existed relics of the ancient polytheist ritual for the worship of Zeus. In fact, the ancient polytheist religious concepts had attained dominance for a time. Unfortunately, however, we do not know how long this theological confusion continued at Avanos, which disturbed Gregoir so much. Incidentally, Gregoir is said to have been baptized on his deathbed.

After the fourth century A.D., we have at hand another letter-this one by Ilieron of Machan (now, Göreme) that may also assist us in tracing the history of Venessa (Avanos). Neither the Romans nor those who came after- wards (the Byzantines) wished to have the region assimilated into their own culture. Rather, their foremost concerns were maintaining control over the free commercial roads and utilization of the human potential of the Cappadocian region in the Byzantine army.

Cappadocia: a Subterranean Land

Hewing the rock formations in Cappadocia has possibly been an activity that has been executed of necessity by human beings from earliest times. First of all, the lack of wood in the natural surround and the frequent earth- quakes that have shaken the area would have urged the inhabitants of Cappadocia experiencing the need for a sound shelter to carry on their daily activities to take refuge in the stone blocks.

The fresco that portrays the eruption of Hasan Dağı, which the British archaeologist James Mellaart recovered at Çataltumulus and which is regarded as the first landscape depiction, has been dated by Carbon 14 to 5734 B.C.; from that date onwards, both the mountains of Erciyes and Hasan and, especially in that epoch, the small-scale local volcanoes on the Nevşehir plateau constituted unpredictable and unavoidable hazards for the regional inhabitants.

These eruptions of volcanic activity continued with close frequency in Central Anatolia until ca. 2000 B.C.; in fact Michel Thierry has indicated that the depictions of erupting volcanoes on Roman coins found on the Cappadocian plateau represent Mount Erciyes. The people of the region, which was sanctified by its mountains, believed that a giant monster occupied the depths of the volcano and that this monster spewed lava and hurled stones, and they have left depictions of this. In a Hittite rock relief at Imamkulu from the thirteenth century, the forms of three mountain gods have been drawn. A tunnel that has been discovered, which was excavated for the purpose of sanctifying the mountain cult at the peak of Mount Erciyes, demonstrates how intensely volcanic activity occupied the thoughts of the people of the region.

The earthquakes and fires that occurred as a consequence of volcanic eruptions continued until the Hellenistic period (323-17 B.C.). Strabon cautions that there were fires beneath the earth in certain areas in the proximity of Mount Erciyes and that it constituted a hazard for the most of the people in this area, particularly for the cattle, and that it was necessary to be vigilant against the danger of falling into the fire wells below the surface of the earth. Moreover, he notes that fires were visible in this region after dark fall.

Mount Erciyes, in particular, due to its frequent spews of flames posed a constant threat to the local residents throughout history; for the Neolithic house of sun-baked brick, which had supporting posts of wood and whose roof was of packed earth, could be easily overturned. For example, the Italians, who initiated their excavations at the Topaklı tumulus in 1967, ascertained in the third level below the cultural strata dating from the late fifth century to the middle of the seventh century, of the Roman and Hellenistic periods (first century B.C. to first century A.D.), that in almost the settlements of these four structural levels emerged evidence of earthquakes and fires. The fourth level settlement was terminated by a violent fire and the fifth level revealed the bodies of two elderly human beings who were caught in the act of an attempt to ward off something descending upon them and the two tortured bodies of young people clearly express the terrors of an earthquake.

As a result, these geological events urged the people of Cappadocia to take shelter in the rocky formations and to produce these spatial units. But finding an answer to the question of when these spaces were first created is difficult. The archaeologist Ö. Yörükoğlu indicates that when a comparison is made between the underground dwellings and the way of life developed in parallel with them and the houses of the Neolithic era they exhibit a strong similarity; just as with the inhabitants of the dwellings in the early settlements, 400 different examples of houses in the underground settlements were built on the same plan in an attached fashion and the entrances and exits were secured through the roof.

This hypothesis suggests that underground settlements were one of the oldest residential units for the inhabitants of Cappadocia. In the eras when the construction techniques of the houses of early human beings were still primitive, so that the houses lacked sufficient soundness to resist the natural disasters of earthquake and fire, the hewing of houses out of rock provided sound, unshakeable, fire resistant houses that maintained a temperature, stable in both winter and summer. In other words, they appear to have been the ideal and the most secure structure. In the rock-hewn spaces and the underground cities no evidence of any natural disaster, frost, rain or the damages of earthquake is visible. These spatial units constituted a perfect foil against the natural harshness of the Cappadocian region, where few trees grew and the summers were very hot and the winters very cold.

Generally, such structures were built on the tops of mountains or their slopes situated in spots providing security and defence. Thus, human life was protected from dangers, which enabled them to pursue life in tranquillity. The interior space and its divisions of the fairly large underground areas occupied by the subterranean cities exhibit a parallel with each other from the perspective of being multifunctional in nature. The underground cities, therefore, sometimes give the startling impression of being living quarters that have been reproduced on a gigantic scale; such cities whose spaces have been carved out of rock leave no clues concerning their age. The time epochs during which the rocks were carved are buried in historical darkness.

The fact that the underground cities were multifunctional in character and were organized to meet all kinds of need, it is unknowable under which special conditions and demands they were created, which obviates the dating of these structures, and we are hindered in comprehending why they were created. For instance, the matter is complicated by the fact that they were equally convenient for purposes of continuous or temporary residence or emergency seclusion. These spatial units generally had no toilet facilities-with the exception of the underground cities of Tarlarin and Güzelyurt. Under the circumstances, this lends weight to the possibility that they were utilized for the purpose of going into hiding for defensive purposes. We might posit that they each represent a ‘spare’ city that acted as a temporary life insurance policy against life-threatening events encountered on the surface of the earth.

The constant enlarging of the underground cities and the effects of permanent residence and because succeeding civilizations have effaced the traces of those that preceded them makes it difficult to assign corresponding time phases. The oldest levels are the entrance levels. Excavations into subterranean cities began in 1964-65, when the view was widespread that they were used by Christians for hiding. The weak aspect of this concept was that it concentrated on dating the construction of the underground cities to the Christian era while the previous eras were kept at a remove from the conceptual framework.

The recovery of a statue of a hawk eagle belonging to the Hittites in the Derinkuyu underground city, however, demonstrates that these settlements extend to a very distant past. Taking that as a starting point and tracing the historical strata, we were able to determine that the underground spaces were also used in the Phrygian period. At Tyana in the environs of Niğde, two Phrygian inscriptions exist containing the name ‘Mida’ of greater significance than the contents, however, is the fact that one of the inscriptions was carved on a round door stone. Similarly, a square worship space belonging to the Phrygian period is located at the entrance of the underground city Mazıköy, and this temple contains signs indicating that it was dedicated to the goddess Kybele.

Historical soundings confirm that these underground areas were in use in a continuous manner. The most detailed information associated with the subterranean spaces belongs to the fifth century B.C. Historical evidence confirms that they were existing in 401 B.C. For example, Xenophon tours one such city in Cappadocia in 401 B.C. and states that ‘...the houses were underground and the doors were each like the mouth of a well-a narrow outer surface beyond which its circumference is enlarged. Paths had been excavated for the use of livestock, but the human inhabitants used step ladders. Goats, sheep, cattle and fowl jointly occupied the dwellings with the children. A great quantity of wheat, barley, dried vegetables and barley wine was stored. The wine was kept in earthenware vessels, on the surface of which grains of barley were floating....This drink was too strong unless it was diluted with water. Its taste was quite pleasant once you became accustomed to it....’What is of interest here is that Xenophon provides detailed information about the interiors of the underground dwellings and that the people of the region were found beneath the surface of the earth at the time of a pillaging raid by Spartan irregulars and mercenary Greek soldiers. It displays the importance of these dwellings for security and defence.

In conclusion, we might inquire whether the cities on the face of the earth were built above the underground cities or whether the underground cities were hewed out of the living rock beneath the cities on the surface above or whether their construction was contemporaneous? At present no answer is forthcoming. But, currently, our interest is piqued by the knowledge that underneath or in proximity to each of the settlement areas in Cappadocia lies a subterranean city.

But, the real danger on the Nevşehir plateau was its own geopolitical position rather than any natural disaster. In Ramsey's words, it represented a frontier between the East and the West and a region where the spirits of the East and the West came into collision and where their respective cultures made an encounter. Consequently, Anatolia was the scene of continuous warfare and military troops were constantly on the move from east to west and from west to east to conduct warfare. The dusty roads of Cappadocia were therefore witness to very swift raids and invasions and the local inhabitants hid themselves in the underground cities to defend their lives and protect their property.

Such a practice had be implemented from the time of the coming to Anatolia of the Thracians and continued with the Scythians, the Achaemenids, the Macedonians and the Turks, among others. Coins, for example, from the reigns of Hadrian (117-38 A.D.) and Justinian II (565-78 A.D.) and artefacts from other similar civilizations have been recovered from various levels of the underground cities. From the seventh and eighth centuries onwards, attacks by the Arabs were increasing in intensity.

The Arabs called the underground cities ‘Matamir’ Rather than conquer the Cappadocian region, they hoped to seize the wealth of the region in the form of wheat, barley, slaves and livestock and, for this reason, they organized swift assaults. According to the Arab chroniclers, a number of Matamir were also captured during these raids; for instance, Yakubi reports that El-Mamun seized many matamir. Tabari also relates that Gaffar ebu Dinar conquered the citadels and matamirs on the Nevşehir plateau in the year 863-64. In the tenth and subsequent centuries, references to Matamirs increase in number in the Arab sources; Masu'di informs us that another underground city was seized in the fifth Byzantine province ‘Al-Q,abadug’ where the Cappadocians kept their stores of wheat. Among the Arab chroniclers, Ibn Hurdadbeh makes the most intriguing definition of the ‘Underground Land or Land of Subterranean Cities’ and names the following cities as underground settlements: Magida (Niğde), Balansa, Malandasa (Melendiz), Koumla, Malakouba (Derinkuyu), Badala, Barnawa and Salamoun.

In times of war, the underground cities were utilized by the local inhabitants and even as fortresses by military garrisons. Further, N. Thierry's research indicates that these cities were situated on the Byzantine military lines. Nicephor Phocas in reference to the military strategical elements of the Cappadocian region states that special observer units were stationed to south of the great Karahöyük and the subterranean settlements of the tumuli that are visible 500 meters east of the underground village of Ören associated with the village of Yeşilöz that lies on the Avanos-Gülşehir road.

In the Derinkuyu underground city, the transition from the first level to the second level is linked by a corridor with a stone door. The entrance to the first floor exhibits no resemblance to the other floors, because it possesses no similar system. It opens directly to the outside and displays characteristics that differ from those observed in the Roman Byzantine periods. Our attention is drawn by the late Hittite rock inscriptions that appear in the vicinity of the underground cities in these and even earlier periods. The aim of constructing these underground cities was to provide temporary shelter for the local inhabitants in the face of hostile elements of all kinds. Once the danger had passed, a return was made to normal life on the surface. In the flow of history, the Cappadocian region was constantly under threat of various kinds of assaults, and the local inhabitants constructed these kinds of places, which are unique and have no equal in the world. From every house on the surface, a secret passage led to openings in the earth that provided temporary refuge in the underground city in times of danger.

Regardless of whether the underground cities were built for military, civilian or defensive purposes, the reason for their existence requires a simultaneous search for both the associated data and events that have vanished in the depths of history.

The Birth of Christianity In Cappadocia

In the medieval period (tenth-eleventh centuries), Göreme formed a district of the province of Avanos. Machan (Göreme) had come into being as a satellite of Avanos, and as Avanos expanded Machan also continued to grow.

St. Basil was opposed to the wholly random and scattered pattern of settlement and urged for a more compact arrangement. Cappadocia was taking the lead in the popularity of the Christian centres subject to the Pontus kingdom. The monk Simeon founded a Christian colony at Zelvede, which evolved into a prominent monastery hierarchy. At present, our knowledge concerning the social and religious life at Cappadocia is limited. What we know so far is that in the early phase Christian communities began to take refuge in secluded valleys, so as not to prompt the angry opposition of the polytheistic Roman believers. At Avanos, they settled at such places, as Kisistra, Mavrucan on the hill of Çavuşin and in Soğanlı valley and the peaks of Archelhais, Hasan Dağı and Belisirma or in early Roman cemeteries. They began to hew out churches from rock formations next to the cemeteries. Some monasteries are very ancient. For instance, the Özkonak Belha monastery at Avanos dates to the sixth century, and the Üzümlü church at Zelve is even earlier. The Basil the Great (330-79) discovered for himself a peaceful, secluded and a quite fertile and well-watered site. Here were conducted both the religious practices of prayer, reading and retreat and also handicrafts, trades and even agricultural cultivation. It is related that the first agricultural plots in the region were cultivated by religious functionaries. The monks both supplied their own foodstuffs and fed the poor and wretched wayfarers who took shelter with them. In the Middle Ages, this kind of monastic structure assumed the appearance of a place of retreat, where people who built churches and who supported and commissioned them would retire when they became old. Not surprisingly, the demand to meet the needs of these institutions led the monks to venture into commercial enterprise.

The monks would regularly set out on long journeys and voyages to sell merchandise and then return. The monasteries of Basil were not centralized under one head, because each community offered submission to its own leader and easily agreed to the addition of new Christian communities by their side. In any case, the communities were not compelled by ritual to worship together at the same time. Naturally, at the time Christian beliefs were being promulgated, it was common for fragmentation to take place. Those who hallowed St. Stylite reserved sacred spaces on rocky peaks; small village communities also spread to smaller and more modest areas parallel with the breaking up of land plots. The clergy raised grains, vegetables, fruit and tended vineyards; they also raised flocks of sheep and herded cattle; some became weavers, others blacksmiths. These colonies were generally situated on the outskirts of a town or in hidden isolated valleys in their environs. These two communities (Stylites and poor villagers) got on well together and made their cemeteries-and even their churches-side by side. This social intermingling also brought disease and epidemics due to poverty and hunger. The bitter circumstances of life urged the people to take refuge in belief, and the people began to crowd the churches of Cappadocia. They also opened wide the gates to the conquests of the Seljuks. This laid the foundation for the downfall of the Byzantines in one blow.

Reaction against these circumstances by those who remained tied to the essence of primitive Christianity led to the emergence of monastery life. In North Africa, where the understanding of primitive Christianity is still strong, one portion of the Christians decided in the second half of the third century to withdraw from the world and gave themselves over to religious, contemplation and ordeal in secluded corners. After the first monastery was founded on an island in the Upper Nile, this movement rapidly spread to Palestine, Syria, Armenia and Cappadocia to achieve this goal and to return to the new primitive Christianity.

No sound evidence is available to enlighten us on how the Christians in the area lived. It is possible to reach the following conclusions on the basis of the writings of St. Basil, the founder of monastery life here and his associate Gregory (Naziance) and St. Basil's brother Gregory, the bishop of Nissa, which reflect their views and from the general intellectual currents within Christianity in those years: Lack of recognition of private property; the necessity of labour; the requirement of eating meals in common; the obligation to undergo ordeals by abstinence and the rejection of marriage.

The person who achieved the realization of monastic life that evolved in this manner in Cappadocia and who was acknowledged as the Head Saint of the Christians of Cappadocia was Basil (300-79), born in Kayseri. He founded a way of life in Cappadocia similar to that led in the monasteries he visited in Egypt and Syria, which was based on the principle of commonality.

The hidden valleys constituted a refuge for the early Christians who fled from oppression and death. When the emperor Constantine granted religious freedom to Christians, Cappadocia had to a great degree become Christianized. The tufa rocks that were used as a shelter throughout history by those who fled hostile enemies or who withdrew from the world were ideal as places to hide and leave the world behind. Because the volcanic terrain in the region was to a great extent unsuitable for agricultural cultivation, it was not sought out as a place of habitation; therefore, its being distant from major settlements and its favourable conditions for seclusion attracted settlement by Christians. It permitted them to remove themselves from the evils of the world and devote their lives to worship. For the early Christians who lived in groups based on the principle of communal life, poverty was a source of pride and wealth cause for shame. But, the increase in the numbers of Christians and the growth in the communities led to division in the views, and after the third century, we observe that Christianity was turning away from this early philosophy and way of life. It was no longer centered on communal life and brotherhood. Some sources reveal that monks remained constant to the concepts of commonality and brotherhood and that they suffered great renunciation for the sake of these goals; but, in time, as the monks became worldlier, the religious functionaries gradually assumed special powers and privileges and formed a sacred caste. The Church itself undertook broad efforts to organize economically and politically, so Christianity conformed to the economic and political institutions of the Roman Empire. This led to the ioss of the power and meaning of the early years of Christianity. We are unable to determine precisely when the ecclesiastical organization began to undergo transformation and bow long these early concepts were viable.

Whether or not the representational arts were permissible was a subject that was long disputed by the Byzantines. The Greek practice of representing the person of a god was a concept that was in constant conflict with the abstract representation of gods representation in the East; and the people initiated a search for a concrete representation of the phenomenon of god. Emperor Leo III prohibited the worship of images in 725. Numerous icons were destroyed by iconoclasts (ikonodul) at this time. Rocky Cappadocia became a place of refuge for Christians fleeing from the cruelties of the iconoclasts in this era. Though not many churches at Cappadocia from the clastic period exist at Cappadocia, the most typical characteristics of the period are in evidence in the Church of St. Basil at Sinassos. When Empress Theodora put an end to the prohibition against icons in 842, Cappadocia once again resumed its active religious life.

However, the issue of the monastic clergy collecting alms became a subject of conflict with the imperial government and a longstanding problem that led to a struggle between the two institutions. Already by the tenth century and even in the time of Nikephoros Phokas, this dispute had turned bitter. As reasons for the restricting the sphere of donations and bequests as well as that for which they were able to collect taxes on their vast land and property holdings, the emperors claimed that their own treasuries suffered loss because of this and their armies lacked men and were incomplete. Hence, the imperial administration had begun to search for ways to exert limitations on the monastery property holdings. E. Barker portrays the situation in the light of a contemporary record, as follows: ‘It is decreed that donations may be made to monasteries, guest lodges and soup kitchens that had been founded from of old, but this assistance is not to be in the form of land or farmlands or in the form of a new structure; that which has been done up to now is sufficient.

The pious foundation that have been in existence for some time must be prudent; for example, they must make repairs by selling the farms in their possession by selling to people outside the church, by using the loans to buy cattle and sheep and setting up stables and pens .The erection of new monasteries or hostels or soup kitchens is prohibited. For this reason, henceforth (that is, from 964, the year the novella was issued) it is not permissible for anyone to transfer deed of title of land, farms or houses to monasteries, soup kitchens or hostels or a metropolis or bishopric. Such transfers will in any case remain null. But in the case that any existing religious facility or any monastery or metropolis or bishopric has no farm remaining in its hands because it is administered poorly or controlled, our decree and approval (for necessities) will grant permission for the acquisition of property. As for the founding of convents and auras they were not to be joined to other property and enlarged; on condition that such foundations remain within their own boundaries, those who wish set up such structures rather than hindrances we will regard these as a good deed worthy of praise’. Nonetheless, because the church had acquired significant economic power and sharpening the dilemma of the poor feudal Byzantine villagers, a civil war that was to break out in the future. Like the predecessors of ancient Greece, they (zelotis) also defended the position of social equality; though their forerunners had wanted the abolition of debts by a more inclusive program and a reallocation of land (khreon apokope kai ges anadosmos), the zelotis at least went as far as aiding the poor and demanding that urban monasteries be made property less and that the wealth of the rich should be seized with the aim of making general reforms. The elite once and whatever remained from the Byzantine Empire became a factor in such a monastery type being a dominant orthodoxy and defined its concept.

But, Cappadocia, which early came under the rule of the Seljuks and Ottomans and the economic practices of the Seljuks and Ottomans, this development failed to occur in the churches here. Numerous churches were in existence and the variety of their wall paintings and frescoes were notable at Zelve, Çavuşin, Ürgüp, Göreme, Avanos, The Belisirma valley, Avcılar, Uçhisar and Ortahisar. No precise dating of all these monuments has been made and especially regarding the decoration made prior to and during the period of iconoclasm no sound consensus has been reached. In addition, the interior construction of the buildings demonstrates that those in Cappadocia were fully current on all the plans utilized by Byzantine architects (moreover, here the structures were being carved out of rock). One or several basilicas with naves, all elements (domes, pillars, columns, vaults, niches) used in neighbouring regions (Mesopotamia, Syria, Lyconia, Pamphilia) are encountered in cruciform plan churches. In fact, there are examples such as the Soğanlı church-where after the rock mass had been carved out, the exterior was worked in the form of a domed church.

In paintings of the early period (sixth-seventh centuries), scenes depicting the life of Jesus or the saints (the paintings of St. Basileios and St. Gregorios in the Church of St. John at Çavuşin) were combined with the classic motifs of the primitive painting (the trees of Eden, vineyards and fish hung on crosses). It is necessary to keep in mind that the strengthening and waning of beliefs or the strengthening and waning of religious and artistic knowledge developed in tandem with the naturalistic depictions of animals and vegetal and floral decorations drawn and painted in a crude fashion. Hence, the primitive archaic designs generally occur in the oldest churches-in those where religious thought had not yet cohered and become adopted fully and in a detailed manner the grouping is an indicator of this. Niketas and Sylite (Ortahisar 550-80), Sarıca church, Kepez (southeast of Ortahisar 950-1020), Canbazlı church (Ortahisar 1020-1130), Saklı church (near Ortahisar tenth-eleventh centuries) are prominent examples.

Some churches can be dated accurately. These churches offer the possibility of determining a certain date, either because it is attributed to a certain historical event or a historical phenomenon is pictured in its name or the name of the builder of the church is inscribed. On this basis, it has been established that five churches are from the tenth century, four churches are from the eleventh century and three churches are from the thirteenth century. Thus, the Tavşanlı church (in the vicinity of Ortahisar), St. John Güllü Dere (near Çavuşin) and the new Tokalı church of Constantine VII were built prior to the years 950-60. Churches have been dated with those originating from the eleventh century include Direkli church (976-1025), St. Michael (1055-56), St. Barbe at Ihlara (1006-21), Karabaş church at Hasan Dağı (1060) and the churches at Soğanlı from the thirteenth century, Karşı church (1212), Forty Martyrs church at Suveş (1216-17) and St. George church at Belisirma (1283-95).

Such carving and decoration activity executed by the Christian communities continued for approximately nine hundred years (from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries). Neither the Arab invasions (between the seventh and ninth centuries) nor the iconoclastic period, which was the most troublesome for Christianity (sixth to ninth centuries), nor even the years between the ninth and the twelfth centuries, when Turkish tribes were mounting assaults and in the era when the Seljuks had established their hegemony, interrupted the practice of carving and painting, The religious tolerance of again gained control of their power in the city of Thessaloniki the Ottomans and their policy of no direct interference with religion of the villagers achieved positive results and led to the earning of the favour of most of the villagers. A great many monastery complexes, rock churches and new rock spatial interiors were also made during this period. For example, an inscription on the Kırkdamaltı church situated near Belisirma village in the Ihlara valley bears the names of both the Seljuk sultan Mesut II and the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II. This inscription tablet, dated 1283-95, is interesting from the perspective of showing contemporary attitudes and practice, which are based on tolerance and respect.

RockChurches and Monasteries

The edifices of a great number of rock churches and monasteries are found in the Cappadocian region, particularly, around Ürgüp, Ortahisar and Gülşehir and the valleys of Göreme, Soğanlı and Ihlara. Each one of these structures-carved out of rock-displays a unique structural architectural style and line of evolution. Typically, they display regional characteristics; at the same time, they reflect the most superior specimens of medieval architecture and pictorial art in Anatolia. The early examples derive from the end of Antiquity and the early Byzantine period; and the late structures are from the thirteenth century in the Seljuk period.

Göreme Valley

Göreme valley is a fascinating locale where both historical wealth and natural beauty live side by side. As an outcome of intense Christian migration in the eighth century by ordinary people and ecclesiastics who were fleeing from oppression to go into hiding here, dwellings, churches and monasteries were constructed for their residences and worship; for this reason Göreme valley became one of the most prominent religious centres of Anatolia. These structures which they created with the technique of rock carving possess plain entrances, simple plans and hemispherical vaults.

The most prominent quality of the structures resides in their frescoes. In the iconoclastic era, they depict symbolic and geometric motifs, such as fish, roosters and grapes; after the close of the iconoclastic period, they portray saints and religious scenes.

Two important techniques are utilized in the paintings. The first technique is the application of paint on a layer of wet plaster. The second technique employs the stone wall as the ground. Because tufa has no moisture absorption property, the frescoes still preserve their vividness.


The great majority of the catacombs later housed those who utilized them as places of retreat and most of them were destroyed. The necropolises continued to be constructed in the Byzantine period. The rock catacombs at Avcılar originate in the third and fourth centuries; these catacombs are important from the perspective of their having belonged to the high priests of Venessa, the city dedicated to Zeus Uranios. The unusual tombs in the village of Mazı are dated to the Early. Macedonian and Christian eras. The canyon contains five tombs. The grave on the east face was made in the well-known Lycian-Carian style. The others from the sixth century B.C. of the closed tomb type, which is common everywhere.

The figure of a woman has been depicted on one of this type of tomb, which has columns (Doric order). The Roman necropolis at the village of Mazıköy is located in the canyon near the edge of the village. Less care has been shown in the tombs here; all are small with doors and over a roughly smoothed surface a representation of the deceased can, with difficulty, be made out. On the interior, there are three stone benches reminiscent of the Greek period. In addition, tombs belonging to the Cappadocian dynasty can be found at Salarköy, Sofular, Ortahisar and Machan. All these tombs resemble the Asiatic type. The most beautiful among the Roman tombs are at Ağzıgüzel near Fraktin, east of Ürgüp. The structure of these attractive tombs has finished to perfection; and in some of them the recess for laying the corpse has been very carefully worked. The tombs of the ordinary subjects of the Roman period can be encountered everywhere.


The most interesting formations of Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia are at Paşabağ and Zelve, five kilometres from Avanos. Here are two canyons in a hidden valley to casual view. Because of the favourable conditions for defence of its site, it was the scene of human habitation continuous from early times. It is thought that the earliest settlements occurred in the Byzantine period. It became of the most important settlements and religious centres for the Christian community between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. It held a position of prominence for the earliest ecclesiastical councils. Zelve sheltered a quite dense populace, and evidence of their daily life has survived to the present. The places where they drew water and ground their grains and conducted their worship are still standing. These churches-most of which were built during the iconoclastic era-are built on the plan of one or two naves or a double nave. The pictorial and other decoration of the church is dated to the ninth-tenth centuries. Üzümlü and Gerikli are the most important churches. A mosque carved out of the rock can also be found here. In recent times, the Muslim community removed to Yeni Zelzeve (Aktepe) after 1950 when, due to the characteristic erosion of the tufa, the mosque became subject to the threat of collapse and destruction.


A fairy chimney of three peaks at Paşabağ was used as a cell by a monk named Simeon. Bearing the same first name as that of St. Stylite who had lived in solitary at the top of a column in Syria, this monk made the bed and sitting furniture in his cell by carving them out of the rock. It also contains a chapel dedicated to St. Simeon. In one other chapel, a striking inscription reads, as follows: ‘O Grave, Take me unto you as you took Stylite.’


The magnificence of the massive tufa of Çavuşin, which lies four kilometres from Avanos, draws one's attention from a great distance. It is known to have been a settlement from ancient days. But, as the result of an earthquake and the collapse of tufa strata, the rock houses were abandoned and the village moved to a flat terrain. The Church of St. John the Baptist, one of the oldest churches of the area, has been constructed in the tufa mass that rises to a height of about 60 meters.

Çavuşin Church

It is a church of the archaic period. It is thought to date to the second half of the tenth century, because the church contains frescoes that commemorate the ceremonies of the visit of Nicephore Phokas (963-69) to Cappadocia. It is one of the most renowned churches of Cappadocia. The pictorial scheme of the Tokalı church at Göreme presents a more primitive acne. Scenes from the life of Jesus Christ are depicted. The stairs appeared because of the partial collapse of the Church.

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 indicate the Parthia influence. The entrance vestibule of the monastery 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 trans into a church.

El Nazar Church

The structure, whose fresco paintings portray miracles from the chi of Jesus and the saints, is dated to the twelfth century. The vaults church on the T-plan is decorated with medallions.

Saklı Church

Because the entrance to the church, which was discovered in 1957, has blocked by piles of earth, the frescoes were in good condition. It is d the mid-eleventh century to the twelfth century. The scenes depict nailing to the Cross, the death of the Virgin Mary, the Transfiguration and St. John the Baptist in the desert are of interest. The frescoes were painted directly on the wall as ground and the colour red was used generously.

Tokalı Church

The structure, which comprises four main spatial units, is the largest of Göreme valley. Passing from the single nave Eski Church witty spherical vault, one enters Yeni Church, built on a rectangular plan. Hewn out of rock, the space covered by a hemispherical vault is divided by into three sections. The structure, which was embellished with pain different times, contains the most interesting specimens of the art of fresco some date from after the iconoclastic period; some, however, be primitive Christian art. The frescoes dated to the early tenth century and in which red and green are the dominant colours offer scenes from The New Testament and contribute an air of richness to the Eski Church. Another quality that distinguishes this church from the others is the frescoes in the Yeni Church section, whose dominant colour is indigo blue. The paintings which portray the life of Jesus in a detailed manner are dated to the late tenth to the thirteenth centuries.

Elmalı Church

It is a structure with a central dome, transverse vault, cruciform plan and four piers. The frescoes are dated to the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The apple orchard that stands before the main entrance, which earlier collapsed has given this structure its name. In the frescoes, scenes from Jesus' life and the Old Testament are depicted. From beneath the frescoes which are peeling away in places can be seen simple pictures in red from the iconoclastic period.

Barbara Church

The church which takes its name from the depiction of St. Barbara verse vaulted, cruciform plan and two pillars is located behind Elmalı church and dated to the first half of the eleventh century ıt has symbolic figures and designs in red paint on the walls and in some of the frescoes Jesus Christ, St. George and St. Theodore appear. Another notable aspect of the church are the charming motifs of fish, rooster and crosse, which are characteristic of the iconoclastic period and which are done in red ochre.

Yılanlı Church

Its frescoes which were applied directly to the wall belong to the eleventh century. The structure which has been divided into two sections by straight lines in red ochre to imitate a fill structure; the first section is hemispherical vaulted and the second has a flat ceiling. To the left of the entrance is a cross on either side of which is the Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena next to which is St. George and St. Theodore in a portrayal of the scene where a snake is killed. On the opposite wall is Jesus holding a book; another fresco depicts Onophrios and Basileios.

Karanlık Church

It is one of the structures on the cruciform plan with four freestanding supports, whose frescoes have been preserved from damage. The darkness in the structure, which has recently been given over to repairs (the light source is a small window in the narthex), gave the church its name and contributed to the fact that the frescoes have survived without damage. Dated to the mid-eleventh century or the early thirteenth century, the frescoes are unlike those of the others which contain scenes from the New Testament rather these follow a historical sequence.

Çarıklı Church

The first section of the church, which is on a closed cruciform plan with two piers and a transverse vault, has been destroyed. The frescoes dated to the eleventh century, of portions of the New Testament and the Old Testament are noteworthy. The name of the church derives from the footprint mark below the fresco depicting the ascension of Jesus that resembles a raw hide sandal.

Kuşluk Church

Kuşluk church, one of the most beautiful churches in the valley of Göreme stands on the slope overlooking the entrance to Kılıçlar valley. The church which is known as the Church of the Virgin Mary is reached by a narrow pass on a path that leads to the valley. The frescoes which use very vivid colours and most of which have been written over, are dated to the first half of the eleventh century. Scenes from the New Testament enliven the apses.

Kılıçlar Church

The church, which is found in Kılıçlar valley about 600-700 meters from Göreme valley is on a cruciform plan, with a dome resting on four free standing pillars and transverse vaulted. The interior -whose fore section has collapsed- is decorated with frescoes in lively colours and dated to the late ninth-early tenth century.

Church Of St. John The Baptist

Viewed as a whole the only structure which is clearly a church from the structural perspective and which is thought to be the oldest church (it section is completely collapsed) is the Church of St. John the Baptist Beyond the entrance, which is carved out of rock, is a basilica of three naves. This basilica which was constructed in the fifth century was dedicated tots John the Baptist. ‘Very few of the frescoes of the basilica which played such an important role in the history of the area have survived. Most are very pore state. One fresco that depicts an angel is the one in the best edition. Besides these religious edifices there is a series of monasteries situated in two valleys which are south of Çavuşin. The first of these is known by the name of Güllü Dere which is one and a half kilometres of Çavuşin Here there are five churches. Four have a single nave and the church call Ayvalı church dedicated to St. John has two naves. Its frescoes date to a time prior to the iconoclastic period and also the archaic period. The more recent of these paintings are dated to 913-20. The richest reliefs of the Göreme region are found here.’

Yamanlı Church

In the square planar hex, the wall surfaces are decorated in patterns of diamond shaped, star medallion and crosses. In the north portion of the apse is a crown formed of vegetal elements and triangles within which and Latin cross is placed; also in the apse on the north side in the middle is a very ornate Maltese cross; on the east side of the nave is a crown decorated with symbolic pearls, vegetal motifs and zigzags, which encloses a Maltese cross. On the north side of the nave on a pilaster is a Greek cross, immediately next to which is a Latin cross. These elements of decoration are difficult to explain and understand, but are associated with early Byzantine and pre-Byzantine culture. The decorative style employed here is reminiscent of Eastern Roman mosaic and wall decoration. It represents the older stand most interesting and, at the same time, one of the most difficult churched to interpret. The Yamanlı church, which is decorated by Latin Greek end Maltese crosses, bears traces of the early Christian culture in Cappadocia. In this connection, it is impossible not to recall the letter of Gregor of Nnissa dated 371-79 regarding Avanos, which states that it is a ‘wondrous house of prayer-built in memory of the martyrs-and in an uncompleted stage of construction, which stands on the left-hand side as one approach Vanonte.’ In fact, the ceiling of Yamanlı church is not entirely finished. The structure of the church exhibits a pre-Byzantine style of the Syrian type. Despite its state of incompleteness, one may date this edifice to tr fourth-sixth centuries.