I last left our reading audience in Turkey, having our toes tickled by fish and titillating the taste buds with turkish delight. I apologize for the long delay between the last Turkey post and this one. Your fingers and toes must be really wrinkled from being in that Turkish spa all this time. In this post, we will close out our Near Eastern experience by perusing some of the remarkable early churches found within the unique geology of the Cappadocian region of Turkey.
Acts 2:1-9 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia…
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,…
The region of Cappadocia, particularly the district of Goreme, is famous for its history and geology, and early Christian architecture in the area has been particularly influenced by the geology. When nearby Mount Erciyes erupted around 250 BC, the Cappadocian region was deluged with large deposits of lava and ash, which eventually formed soft rocks. Residents of the area realized that the soft rocks could be easily carved into large caverns, perfect for living and storage. Nature also did its own carving in the soft rock – the famous “fairy chimneys” were formed when the soft rock eroded away, leaving hard rock pillars behind as ghostly sentinels. Christians in the area began to create church sanctuaries in the rock around the 4th century, small structures at first, and then evolving into the spectacular sanctums that the area is known for today. The soft rocks were also easy to paint, as evidenced by the wonderful frescoes on the church walls, many of which are still preserved well enough to be enjoyed today. Seeing these churches in person would be a definite bucket list item.
The preserved churches of Goreme, Cappadocia, in a nutshell:
1. Azize Barbara Kilisesi – named after an early Christian matryr, Saint Barbara; 11th century; restored in late 20th century.
2. Carikli Kilise – 11th century; also called “The Church with Sandals”, so named for the impression of two sandals on the ground at the church’s entrance.
3. Elmali Kilise – ca. 1050; restoration completed in the early 1990s; also called “The Apple Church”, possibly named for a red circle in the hands of the angel Michael on one of the frescoes.
4. Karanlik Kilise – 11th century; also called “The Dark Church”, so named for the small windows in the church letting in very little light (of course, this also helped to preserve the frescoes; many depictions of New Testament events.
5. Tokali Kilise – 11th century; also called “The Church of the Buckle”; the largest of the area churches, it is divided into four main chambers – the old church, the new church, the paraclesion, and the lower church; restoration completed in the 1980s; contains many New Testament scenes, including a “timeline” of the life of Christ.
6. Yilanli Kilise – 11th century; also called “The Snake Church”, so named for the fresco of St. George slaying a snake-like dragon;