Churches and structures inside the Goreme Open Air Museum

Today, Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the most popular visiting sites in Cappadocia. It is useful to know that a Cappadocia tour without visiting the museum will be seriously incomplete. The open air museum is on the crossroad to Ortahisar around 1 km outside of Goreme. Here, structures combined to form a group are collected under museum compound. Primary visiting buildings and structures at the museum are Rahibeler Monastery, Saint Basileos Chapel, Elmali Church, Saint Barbara Chapel, Yilanh Church, Pantry-Kitchen-Dining Hall, Karanlik (Dark) Church, Saint Catherine Chapel, and Cankli Church.

Rahibeler (Sisters) Monastery: It is also known as Kizlar (Girls) Monastery or church. It was carved as six storeys in to a high rock block just opposite of museum entrance gate. There are food court, rooms, a ruined small chapel, and a church inside of it. Today, only the food court at the entrance storey, kitchen and some rooms can be visited. There is a small chapel at the second storey, and a church which is indicated to be built in the year of 1055. There is a Jesus

description painted on northern wall of the church together with red and green ornaments.

Saint Basileos Chapel: The chapel was constructed with three apsises and has a rectangular plan. The columns inside the chapel divide it into two sections. In shorter side there are grave holes on the floor. There are also paintings inside the chapel in accordance to a certain order. Inside this 11th century structure you • can see child Jesus and Maria on the apsis; on the left wall Saint Demetrius, and Saint George on horse and two other saints while they fight against a dragon; and on the right (north) wall Saint Theodora on horse was figured. Elmali Church: The church has a plan of consisting three apsises and Greek cross with nine small domes seated on four big columns which is called as elephant feet (filpaye) in

Turkish architecture. As the main entrance was collapsed, today the entrance to the building is secured through a tunnel opened from the northern side. The first ornaments of the church were consisted of paintings on walls in mono color. It is possible to understand this with paintings uncovered by spilled or fallen plasters from walls. The church is dated back to 11- 12th centuries. As the structure had been used as dove cote for long period of time the frescoes have been well protected. Later years it was renovated and restored. Today, among the main visible scenes are Profit Abraham’s hospitality and three Jewish youngsters being set on fire derived from the Old Testament, along with several scenes inspired by the Bible.

Saint Barbara Chapel: Inside the chapel, there is a fresco of Saint Barbara who was killed by her father as she resisted reverting from her beliefs. The building was constructed as a form of Greek cross with three apsises, and seated on two columns. It seems the red ornaments and paintings on the wall of the chapel are daub, as if they were made by apprentices while masters’ absence. There are figures of Pantocrator Jesus on main apsis, Saint Georgios and Theodora on the northern cross arm, and Saint Barbara on the west arm cross.

Yilanh Church: I think Yorgo Seferis was quite appropriate while he was calling the church Saint Enofrios when he visited there 1953. The nude one among the saints at the right side of the entrance of the building, which is called Yilanh Church today, is Saint Enofrios (Onophorios). Saint Thomas and Saint Basileos are located besides St. Enofrios. The saint painted as nude, evident with breasts and shown with beard, is covered by a cactus on her part of torso where expected be covered by a grape leaf. According to hearsays Onophorios is a prostitute. She intended to give over her profession, but men did not allow her. Then Onophorios had beg to the God and appealed to liberate her from this situation. After some praying, in a morning she found herself in a form of half woman and half man. We know that later years Onophorios had survived 60 more years with great suffer in Egyptian deserts. Imagery of cactus on the fresco covering her front is a reference to desert itself, and life with great suffer in the desert. Inside the rectangular planned Yilanh Church there are figures of Saint Onesimus, Saint George and Theodore on horse and fighting against a dragon located on the left wall of the entrance; and at the end

figures ofHelene holding a cross and descriptions of Constantinus are located.

Pantry-Kitchen-Dining Hall: There are pantry, kitchen and dining hall successively after Yilanli Church. These structures are connected to each other. You can see food supply storage in the pantry, tandoor cooker in the kitchen, stone bench and table and a must room to press grape at the right side of the table. Karanlik (Dark) Church: This is a monastery church. In order to reach to the building a short stairway is climbed up to a flat area. If you take care you will notice that this plain court belongs to a two storey building and the upper storey is fallen down. From this point a passage starts with northern door to the entrance part of the church through a staircase. The church is not exposed of light except light coming from a small window at the entrance side. This has caused the frescoes have been well protected in time and gave fame of being remembered as Dark Church. The church with six domes and three apsises seated on four columns has a form of Greek cross. It can be

accepted as one of the structures that art of painting had gained the top among Cappadocian churches. The restoration of the frescoes could be finished in 1986 after 10 years of work. The history of frescoes go back to 11 and 13th centuries. The figures of Elmali Church, Profit Abraham’s hospitality, and three Jewish youngsters being set on fire derived from the Old Testament along with scenes derived from the Bible can bee seen here as well. There are nativity, cross, metamorphosis, the last supper, Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem, and the scene of Jesus’ begging to God to excuse humanity (Deesis) among all other scenes from the Bible attract special attention.

 Saint Catherine Chapel: It is in a form of grave chapel, and set in two sections. There are nine grave holes on the base of the entrance section. The chapel accessed by here was constructed in accordance to floating cross plan with single apsis in 11th century. Among visible scenes, there are Deesis on the apsis, medallions and saint descriptions on the walls under the apsis, and Saints Theodora and Catherine on the right wall of the entrance.

Cankli Church: The church located at the end of excursion road can be reached through a small iron staircase. The two storey structure is in a form of monastery complex. The front side

is already collapsed. At the down floor there is a dining hall of the monastery and connected facilities. There is the church of the building at the second floor reached by a staircase. The church with two pillars and four domes, and has three apsises. The context of the frescoes of the church can be accepted almost identical with those of Elmali and Karanlik churches. They go back to 11-13fh

centuries. Among the frescoes of the church a figure of turbaned head located at the right side of the entrance is very distinctive. It is said that this figure is Seljuk Sultan Mesud the IInd. It is believed that this figure inspired by a very similar figure found at Kirk Dam Alti (Under Forty Roof) Church in Ihlara Valley.