Sarica Church – One of Many

6 june 2007
There are over 400 churches and chapels in Cappadocia. One has been lovingly restored

   The award for Conservation of Architectural Heritage will be presented at the Europa Nostra Annual Congress this week to the Sarica Church in Cappadocia (Turkey), part of the Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia World Heritage site. Having suffered from severe surface erosion due to rainwater infiltration, cracks and flaking, this remarkable example of a rock-carved Byzantine church was rescued, restored and made accessible to visitors. The project principally involved the restoration of the wall paintings, the construction of a new drainage system and the replacement of the eroded rock of the facade with a covering of harder local tuff of similar colour.

Rock-carved church
A private company, Vasco Travel, restored the church in order to contribute to the sparse public money that the Turkish State invests in the Cappadocian heritage. The project began in 1997 and the restoration commenced in 2001. The project sponsored by Vasco Tourism Investment Industry and Trade Inc. and carried out by KA.BA Conservation of Historic Buildings and Architecture Ltd over seven years, makes the Sarica Church stand out as a rare example of a successfully restored and revitalised rock-carved church in Cappadocia, says Europa Nostra in its presentation of the award.  

In the promotional brochure Vasco Travel claims that the project has given the company much positive feedback not least in the aftermath of 9/11.


Take A Cultural Tour Of Cappadocia And Turkey’s Southern Shore

29 June 2007

   Explore a wealth of remains from the Classical Greek and Roman eras on a ten day cultural tour of Cappadocia and Turkey’s Southern shore, bookable through independent tour operator, Prestige Holidays.

The tour, which cost £1495 per person, departs on Saturday 6th October 2007 and is organised by The Travellers’ Club. It begins with three days in Cappadocia exploring villages hewn into and out of crags and pinnacles, and amazing rock-cut churches and underground cities dating from the Byzantine period. From here it moves to Konya taking in some Islamic buildings dating from the Seljuk period. The tour ends in Antalya on the Mediterranean with visits to see the imposing remains of several attractively located Greco-Roman cities including Aspendus, which has one of the best preserved theatres from the ancient world.The cost of the holiday includes: return flights from London, accommodation with dinner and breakfast each day, transport in Turkey, entrance charges at most monuments and the services of an English speaking guide.The Travellers’ Club offers imaginative and comfortable holidays taken at a leisurely pace which appeal to the elderly as well as younger people. Also as travellers tend to meet before departure, single travellers have the option of sharing rooms, avoiding the cost of single supplements.

New Underground City Opens To Tourists In Guzelyurt

 2007-06-26 Tuesday

   One of Cappadocia’s important underground cities, Gaziemir in Guzelyurt, was opened to tourists on Sunday. Aksaray Governor Sebati Buyuran, Garrison Commander Ali Inlek, Chief of Police Department Sabri Yakar and many guests attended the opening ceremony of the underground city.Excavation Chairman Guzin Karakoy, who brought the underground city into tourism, said they unearthed the city, which could not have been uncovered for many years, in six months with a 25-person excavation team.Karakoy said they had started working in four cave entrances and reached new sections as they had cleared out the soil.

  Gaziemir underground city dates back to the Byzantine period. Karakoy said it is larger than similar cities in Aksaray and made up of a bath, two churches, animal shelters, depots, small and big cookers and living spaces.

  “While other underground cities are high enough just for a normal person to walk through, the ceiling of this city is higher. During our excavation work, we found camel bones. This proves the city’s big size. The width of joint use areas and the height of the corridor opening to big rooms, is appropriate for big size animals like camels,” said Karaköy.

  Governor Buyuran said the Cappadocia region had an important richness. “We have work from the Neolithic period, Roman, Byzantium, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. But we have a lot of work to do to present this richness to tourists. One of them was to open Gaziemir underground city to tourists and we did it today.”

  The first visitors of the underground city were a 10-person tourist group including German, French, Hungarian, Chinese and Japanese tourists. Karakoy introduced the underground city to the tourist group.


Cappadocia Church Gets EU Architectural Heritage Prize

 Monday, May 21, 2007

   The European Commission and Europa Nostra, the pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage, announced the laureates of the annual European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards on April 26. “The awards of the past five years have contributed to promote places where cultural heritage is protected,” says the European Commission’s Cultural Representative Jan Figel.This year’s “Conservation of Architectural Heritage” award, which is considered as the top award, will be given to Sarıca Church in Cappadocia, Turkey.

  Sarıca Church in Cappadocia suffered from severe surface erosion due to rainwater infiltration, cracks and flaking. The rock-carved Byzantine church was recently rescued, restored and made accessible to visitors. The project consisted of restoring wall paintings, constructing a new drainage system and replacing eroded rock of the facade with a covering of harder local tuff of similar color.

  The awards will be presented at the annual European Heritage Awards Ceremony, which will take place on 8 June 2007 in Stockholm City Hall in Sweden. Europa Nostra’s President, HRH the Prince Consort of Denmark, Ján Figel’, Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, and Sweden’s Princess Madeleine, and Patron of Europa Nostra Sweden will participate in the event. Also the King and Queen of Sweden will honor the ceremony with their presence.

  Europa Nostra and the European Commission launched European Heritage Awards jointly in 2002 within the framework of the Commission’s Culture 2000 program. The aim of the prizes is to recognize best practice in heritage conservation on a European level. The aims of the Awards Scheme are three-fold: to promote high standards in conservation practice, to stimulate trans-boundary exchanges of knowledge and skills, and to encourage further exemplary initiatives in the field of cultural heritage.

  A total of 158 applications and nominations from 32 countries were received in various categories and assessed in situ by independent experts. The Heritage Awards Jury selected the most outstanding of these. The range of exemplary initiatives submitted illustrated the many facets of Europe ‘s rich cultural heritage, ranging from the restoration of buildings and sites, their adaptation to new uses, new buildings in conservation areas, urban and rural landscape rehabilitation, to archaeological sites, care for collections, research and dedicated service to heritage conservation.

  The prizes, which consist of an award of €10,000, will be presented in various categories. The “Conservation of Cultural Landscapes” award goes to Santo Stefano di Sessanio near l’Aquila, Italy. The visionary action of a private investor has permitted the dramatic rescue of a medieval fortified village in the Abruzzi highlands, which had been completely abandoned under the effects of devastating poverty and rural exodus. Through its rehabilitation as an extended hotel, this important ‘minor’ architectural heritage was thoroughly restored and the local crafts and traditions were revived. The social and economic benefits of the revitalization of the project have radiated throughout the region.

  The third award, Conservation of Works of Art, will be given to Germany’s Farbdiaarchiv zur Wand- und Deckenmalerei. The ambitious project was successfully undertaken by the Zentral Institut für Kunstgeschichte München and the Bildarchiv Foto Marburg to develop a digital database to preserve the color slide archive of a large photo campaign that took place in 1943-1945 to document valuable paintings and interior decoration in buildings destroyed in air raids by the Allied forces.

  The archive features circa 40,000 images from approximately 480 buildings in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Russia, many of which were damaged or destroyed during the last three years of the war. Now accessible and free of charge on the Internet, the archive also serves as an indispensable research tool on which the restoration of damaged buildings can be founded.


Ihlara Valley Offers An Evocative Visual Show For Visitors

Friday, March 2, 2007

   The Cappadocia region offers visitors a distinctly extraordinary landscape and stunning natural beauty stretching over an area of 15,000 square miles. The Ihlara Valley is one of those unique spots located in the region, luring a great deal of tourists from all over the world with its natural and historical legacy.

Aksaray Provincial Culture and Tourism director Hamza Zengin told the Anatolia news agency that the valley was one of the major tourist attractions in the region with its natural beauty, historical treasures and many churches.Noting that the valley was home to 105 churches as well as rock houses and temples constructed by early Christians, he said the valley was an ideal place for monks and priests for worship and seclusion at the time.

“The formation of the valley, underground cities with connecting tunnels and churches that date back to A.D. 400 are all very popular with tourists. The Ihlara Valley is beautiful throughout the year and remains among the most popular spots in the Cappadocia region,” said Zengin.The Ihlara Valley, formed after several eruptions of Mount Erciyes, is a 16-kilometer long canyon in the southern part of Cappadocia.

Cracking and collapsing, which occurred as a result of basalt and andesite lava from Mt. Hasandag’s eruption, created the Ihlara Gorge and running through they valley is the Melendiz River. 

What is unique about this valley is the ancient history of its inhabitants. The whole canyon is honeycombed with underground dwellings cut into the rock, churches from the Byzantine period and graves built into the valley’s walls, some of which are connected by tunnels and corridors. The valley proved to be an ideal place for the seclusion and worship of monks along with a hideaway and secure area for people during invasion.

The decoration of some churches can be dated back to the 6th and13th centuries and can be classified in to two groups. Churches close to the Ihlara Canyon have frescoes with oriental influence and those nearer to Belisirma possess Byzantine style decorations. Very few Byzantine inscriptions in this area can be read but a 13th century fresco in the church of St. George (Kırkdamaltı), the names of Seljuk Sultan Mesud and the Byzantine Emperor Andronicos are inscribed. The construction of new churches slows down after the Seljuk Turks’ conquered the area, however, church life continued until the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923.Some of the best-preserved frescoes in the Ihlara Valley can be found at the Agacaltı, Purenliseki, Kokar, Yilanli and St. George churches.


Cappadocia Horse Riding Tours

horse    horse 

   Experience the incredible and unusual beauty of Turkey’s Cappadocia region from the back of a horse.Something like a cross between the Grand Canyon and a moonscape, Cappadocia boasts some of the worlds most unusual and spectacular landscapes. Traversing the countless valleys and mountains by horseback brings riders in touch with the area’s breath-taking beauty. Forget the tour buses or even the rental cars – this astonishing region of Central Anatolia is truly best seen by horseback. Horse Riding may also include visits to some of Cappadocia´s incredible cultural treasures such as Byzantine churches carved inside caves, fascinating underground cities or the area’s traditional craftmaking centers.

Cappadocia History


   Cappadocia was known as Hatti in the late Bronze Age, and was the homeland of the Hittite power centred at Hattusa. After the fall of the Hittite Empire, with the decline of the Syro-Cappadocians (Mushki) after their defeat by the Lydian king Croesus in the 6th century, Cappadocia was left in the power of a sort of feudal aristocracy, dwelling in strong castles and keeping the peasants in a servile condition, which later made them apt for foreign slavery. It was included in the third Persian satrapy in the division established by Darius, but long continued to be governed by rulers of its own, none apparently supreme over the whole country and all more or less tributary to the Great King. Thoroughly subdued at last by the satrap Datames, Cappadocia recovered independence under a single ruler, Ariarathes (hence called Ariarathes I), who was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, and maintained himself on the throne of Cappadocia after the fall of the Persian monarchy.The province was not visited by Alexander, who contented himself with the tributary acknowledgment of his sovereignty made by Ariarathes before the conqueror’s departure from Anatolia; and the continuity of the native dynasty was only interrupted for a short time after Alexander’s death, when the kingdom fell, in the general partition of the empire, to Eumenes. His claims were made good in 322 BC by the regent Perdiccas, who crucified Ariarathes; but in the dissensions which brought to Eumenes’s death, the son of Ariarathes recovered his inheritance and left it to a line of successors, who mostly bore the name of the founder of the dynasty.Fairy chimneys in CappadociaUnder Ariarathes IV Cappadocia came into relations with Rome, first as a foe espousing the cause of Antiochus the Great, then as an ally against Perseus of Macedon. The kings henceforward threw in their lot with the Republic as against the Seleucids, to whom they had been from time to time tributary. Ariarathes V marched with the Roman proconsul Publius Licinius Crassus Mucianus against Aristonicus, a claimant to the throne of Pergamon, and their forces were annihilated (130 BC). The imbroglio which followed his death ultimately led to interference by the rising power of Pontus and the intrigues and wars which ended in the failure of the dynasty.The Cappadocians, supported by Rome against Mithradates, elected a native lord, Ariobarzanes, to succeed (93 BC); but it was not till Rome had disposed at once of the Pontic and Armenian kings that his rule was established (63 BC). In the civil wars Cappadocia was now for Pompey, now for Caesar, now for Antony, now against him. The Ariobarzanes dynasty came to an end and a certain Archelaus reigned in its stead, by favour first of Antony, then of Octavian, and maintained tributary independence till AD 17, when the emperor Tiberius, on Archelaus’s death in disgrace, reduced Cappadocia at last to a Roman province and later to a region of the Byzantine Empire .

Cappadocia contains several underground cities (see Kaymaklı Underground City), largely used by early Christians as hiding places before they become a legitimate religion. The Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century were integral to much of early Christian philosophy. It also produced, among other people, another Patriarch of Constantinople, John of Cappadocia who held office 517–520. For most of the Byzantine era it remained relatively undisturbed by the conflicts in the area, first with the Sassanid Empire and later against the Islamic expansion led by Arabs.

Cappadocia shared an always changing relation with the neighbouring Armenia, by that time a region of the Empire. The Arab historian Abu Al Faraj, purports the following about Armenian settlers in Sivas, during the 10th century: “Sivas, in Cappadocia, was dominated by the Armenians and their numbers became so many that they became vital members of the imperial armies. These Armenians were used as watch-posts in strong fortresses, taken from the Arabs. They distinguished themselves as experienced infantry soldiers in the imperial army and were constantly fighting with outstanding courage and success by the side of the Romans in other words Byzantine.”[1] As a result of the Byzantine military campaigns, the Armenians spread into Cappadocia and eastward from Cilicia into the mountainous areas of northern Syria and Mesopotamia. This immigration was increased further after the decline of the local imperial power and the establishment of the Crusader States following the 4th Crusade. Cappadocia became part of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, a state formed in the 12th century by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia and a close ally of the Crusaders.

Following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 various Turkic tribes under the leadership of the Seljuks began settling in Anatolia. After the rise of the Turkic power in Anatolia, Cappadocia slowly became tributary to the Turkic empires and some of the population converted to Islam. By the early 13th century the Seljuks had conquered the vacum of the shrinking Byzantine Empire and established the vassal emirate of Karaman to control the centre-east areas. The Karamanids expanded their land attracting the discontent of the Seljuks. This fragile peace was interrupted frequently by open hostilities. The Karamanid dominion survived the decline and fall of the Seljuks, who soon were replaced by the Ottomans as the dominant Turkish emirate and leaders of Islam. A treaty between the two dominions was made and peace existed until the reign of Bayezid I who disolved the semi-independant Karaman. Apart from a brief control under the Timur empire, Cappadocia remained part of the Ottoman Empire for the centuries to come and remains now part of the modern state of Turkey.

Many Cappadocians shifted during that period to a Turkish dialect (written with the Greek alphabet, Karamanlıca) and where Greek was maintained (Sille, villages near Kayseri, Pharasa town and other nearby villages), it became heavily influenced by the surrounding Turkish. This dialect of Greek is known as Cappadocian Greek; following the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the language is now only spoken by a handful of the former population’s descendants in modern Greece.