Open Air Museum

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   Goreme is a district of the Nevşehir Province in Turkey. After the eruption of Mount Erciyes about 2000 years ago, the lava formed soft rocks in the Cappadocia Region. People of Goreme, at the heart of the Cappadocia Region, realized that these soft rocks could be easily carved out to form houses, churches, monasteries.
   Tokalı Kilise (or the Church of the Buckle), is the largest church in Goreme. Restoration of the church was completed during the 1960s. One noted feature of the church is the main nave containing ninth century frescoes in “provincial” style, the more recent additions are three apses of the 11th century frescoes, which are rendered in “metropolitan” style. The church contains frescoes of the twelve apostles, the saints and scenes from the life of Jesus (963-969 and 11th century respectively). The church also has a crypt underneath the nave. The Buckle Church is formed of four chambers: the Old Church, the New Church, the Paracclesion, and the Lower Church. The older Church dates to the 10th century, with pale hues of red and green painted in strips to represent scenes from the New Testament. Panels of rich indigo painted with pigments from the lapis stone dominate the New Church, carved out of the eastern wall of the Old Church and decorated with Eastern-style arches and a series of arcades. The Paracclesion is a chapel with a single apse, and the Lower Church has three aisles and a burial space or krypto.
   Elmalı Kilise (or the Apple Church) a smaller cave church. Was built around 1050AD and has carved into four irregular pillars the sign of a Greek cross with these pillars support it’s central dome. Restoration on the church was completed in 1991, but the frescoes continue to chip off, revealing a layer of earlier paintings underneath. The church’s paintings depict scenes of the saints, bishops, and martyrs. and to the right of the altar, a Last Supper with the symbolic fish (the letters of the word fish in Greek, ΙΧΘΥΣ, stand for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior”). The name of the church is believed to refer to a reddish orb in the left hand of the Archangel Michael in the dome of the main apse, or possibly to an apple tree that grew in the vicinity.
   Barbara Kilise, (or the Church of Saint Barbara) Barbara was an Egyptian saint who was imprisoned by her father in order to protect her from the influences of Christianity. Barbara nevertheless found a way to practice her faith and her father tortured and killed her. Built in the late Eleventh Century A.D, the church was possibly built as a tribute to the Martyr-Saint. The church has the same layout as Çarikli Kilise. The church has a cross-domed with three apses, the dome containing Christ on the Throne. with geometrical patterns painted in red ochre believed to be symbolic in nature. Another frescoe with the large locust possibly representing evil, which is warded off by the protection of two adjacent crosses. The north wall of the church contains a frescoe of St. George and St Theodore on horse-back struggling against the dragon and snake.
   Yilanlı Kilise(or the Snake Church) is a simple barrel-vaulted church with a low ceiling and long nave. It is name for the frescoe of Saints Theodore and St George slaying the dragon (or snake as depicted in the frescoe). The church also has a frescoe of Emperor Constantine and his mother Saint Helena depicted holding the “True Cross.” Legend has it that she discovered the cross upon which Jesus was crucified after seeing it in a dream, and that a piece of the cross is still buried in the foundations of the Ayasofya in Istanbul. Other sections of the cross are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and in St. Peter’s in Rome. Another interesting portrait is the one of Saint Onuphrius on the upper wall to the right of the entrance. The saint, lived the life of a hermit in the Egyptian desert near Thebes, Egypt and is usually depicted with a long gray beard wearing only a fig leaf.
   Karanlık Kilise (or the Dark Church) was a monastic compound built in the 11th century. After the Turkish expulsion it was used as a pigeon house until 1950s. After 14 years of scraping pigeon droppings off the walls, these newly restored frescoes, depicting scenes from the New Testament, are the best preserved in all of Cappadocia and a fine example of 11th-century Byzantine art. Part of the narthex or vestibule however collapsed opening part of the church’s roof to the sky. This caused damage to the fresco with Christ’s Ascension and the Benediction of the Saints, whereas the other scenes are only partially remain where the wall collapsed. The church’s name possibly comes from a small oculus looking out of the narthex which only lets in a very small amount of light. This feature is what has preserved the richness of the pigments and allowed them survived the test of time.
   Carıklı Kilise (the Church with Sandals ) the name is comes from the two footprints at the bottom of the Ascension fresco at the church’s entrance (this fresco is said to be an exact copy of the one contained at the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem). The church is cut into the same rock as Karanlik Kilise. The footprints themselves, have many unconfirmable legends attached to them. The church is carved into a cross floor plan with intersecting vaults. The church’s frescoes, which date to the 11th century, contain the four Evangelists, the Nativity and and the Crucifixion, the Baptism, the Adoration of the Magi, and other New Testament themes.
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