Church with Snake

Church with Snake Cappadocia  Church with Snake data
Church with Snake
 The church was given this local name on account of a fresco depicting a scene from Hell where serpents torment some sinners. A woman of perdition who, in her life, refused to breastfeed her child, is condemned to suckle a pair of snakes. The tongue of another sinner is being devoured by a snake, probably because she has spoken evil of an innocent person. The third penitent is bitten in the ears—the punishment for disobedience.

The Valley of Ihlara was inhabited until the first half of the 14th century. The mutual goodwill and respect that obviously existed here between Christians and Turks may have been the result of the disastrous events within the Christian world. In 1204, the Venetians and the rabble of the 4th Crusade had sacked Constantinople and dismembered the Byzantine Empire.

For sixty years the alien Latins were usurping the Byzantine throne. Between 1206 and 1261, the Emperor at Nicaea ruled, at least in theory, the Christian of Anatolia, many of whom now lived in Seljuk-controlled territories. The ravages of the Crusaders surpassed every calamity ever caused by the Seljuks, who would treat peacefully submitting communities with great lenience.

The Orthodox Christians of Ihlara harbored more sympathy toward the tolerant Turks, than toward their Latin Roman “brethren,” who treated the adherents of the Eastern Church like breakaway heretics who should be chastized by all means.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, within the short span of less than a hundred years, the Christians abandoned their cave colonies after some seven hundred years of continuous presence and migrated into the coastal regions of the Aegean.

Why would they depart so suddenly? Out of fear from living like a small Christian island in the middle of a vast Islamic sea, as some writers of the past suggested?

I am not prepared to accept this hypothesis, but believe that the Christians had vacated their caves simply because it was no longer necessary to hide; because for the first time in history they felt safe in the open. They probably saw the Turks settling, building and organizing, and realized that the Ottomans were not trespassers, but people who intended to stay, and who also possessed the armed force to safeguard what they had conquered. The epochs when marauding enemy hordes could suddenly descend from the hills to ravage peaceful communities were over and done with. Indeed, except for a brief incursion of the Mongols of Tamerlan, no foreign invader would ever challenge the Ottoman State.

Eventually, the Cappadocian Christians migrated into the fertile, prosperous and climatically more agreable coastal regions, where every inch of land reminded them of ancient and familiar traditions.


It received its name on account of its principal fresco, Saint George slaying the Dragon, which the unknown artist depicted rather like an odd-lokking snake. The church features two chambers. The ceiling of the nave is vaulted, but the roof of the rear sections is flat. The original decoration follows the archaic pattern of symbols, painted in red ochre during the period of iconoclasm. The much damaged frescos were painted later and they date to periods decades apart, showing observable differences in quality, style and workmanship.

Above the one-time altar a mural depicts Christ with the Bible in his left hand. The characters on the ceiling represent Onophrios, Constantine the Great and Theodoros. The mounted figures fighting the dragon are resembling to Costantine and Empress Helene. Onophrios is portrayed nude with a small tree covering his lower abdomen. Apostle Thomas and Saint Basil with a book are also represented.


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