Cappadocia (a region in the centre of Turkey) is rich enough to have several tours dedicated to it alone, and often provides a definite highlight on Turkey tours that sweep the country. From underground cities to hot air balloon rides over the distinctive “fairy chimney” rock pinnacles, Cappadocia is truly awe-inspiring, and a definite feature especially worth seeing are the churches of Göreme. Carved into rock pinnacles dating from the 4th century, they are part of underground cities that served as both caravanserai and refuges from persecution. They provide a wonderful visual treat for visitors on Turkey tours, and the following are some of the cave-churches that should be on any itinerary, all found in the Göreme Open Air Museum.
Dark Church (Karanlık Kilise)
The Dark Church wasn’t named for any sinister reason, but because the majority of it has not been directly exposed to the air. It’s widely considered to be the best of all Göreme’s churches, built in the 11th century. The church’s murals depict New Testament scenes such as the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Last Supper, Judas’ Betrayal, the crucifixion and resurrection. Despite the ravages of time, many of the murals are still in a fantastic and vibrant condition. They’re truly an essential component of any Turkey tours in the region.
St. Barbara Church
Built in the second half of the 11th century, St Barbara church gives visitors on Turkey tours a very different church to experience than the Dark Church; the motifs painted directly on to the rock are far simpler, including geometrical patters, mythological creatures, and military symbols. The cumulative effect of the paintings is strangely beautiful.
The Snake Church (Yilanlı Kilise)
Named for one of the church’s murals, depicting Saint Theodore and Saint George slaying the snake, this simple church is another dating back to the 11th century. Another famous mural is of Emperor Constantine and his mother Saint Helena holding the True Cross. According to legend, she discovered the True Cross upon seeing it in a dream; a piece of it is said to be buried in the foundations of the Haghia Sophia.
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