Goreme is a small village set among ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations in the historical region of Cappadocia in Turkey. 2000 years ago Mount Erciyes erupted, leaving these soft rock formations, covering a 20,000 km² area. In 1985 the Goreme National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The softer rocks eroded away with the combination of water and wind, leaving only the hard rock on the top. It is these hard-capped rocks that have become known as the ‘fairy chimneys.’ The locals soon realised that the softer rocks could easily be carved and began building houses, churches, monasteries and religious sanctuaries. Goreme is a great place to visit and base yourself when exploring the ancient underground cities and rock-cut Byzantine Churches of Cappadocia. There are many great options for accommodation and good transportation throughout the region.
GOREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM
A World Heritage site in Turkey, the Goreme Open Air Museum is a cluster of rock-cut Byzantine churches, chapels and monasteries 2 kilometres from Goreme city centre. The main churches and monasteries worth visiting are;
Tokali Kilise, also known as the Church of the Buckle is the largest church in Goreme. Among the beauties of this church, is the 9th-century nave containing frescos in ‘provincial’ style. More frescos were added in the 11th century and there are depictions of the twelve apostles and the saints and scenes of the life of Jesus. There is a crypt under the nave, a new church, a Paracclesion and a lower church.
Emlali Kilise is the Apple Church and the smallest of the cave churches. It was built in 1050 AD and has 8 small domes and one large dome. There are four irregular pillars with Greek symbols, holding up this central large dome. It is not known if the name came from a picture of Angel Gabriel (Archangel Michael), with a reddish orb in his hand, or from an apple tree that grew out the front. The frescos are stunning, with depictions of scenes of the saints, bishops, and martyrs to the right of an altar; for the last supper.
Barbara Kilise, also known as Azize Barbara Sapeli, is the Church of Saint Barbara, an Egyptian saint imprisoned by her father to protect her from the influences of Christianity. Saint Barbara found ways to practice Christianity until her father tortured and killed her. The church was built in the late 11th century in her memory. The church is simple, with a cross-dome and one central apse, two side apses and two columns. The frescos here are fairly worn out, with depictions of Christ on the Throne, large locusts and St George and St Theodore.
Yilanli Kilise is the Snake Church, with a simple carrel-vaulted low ceiling and long nave. There are 11th-century frescos of St George and St Theodore slaying a snake. There is also a fresco of Emperor Constantine and his mother Saint Helena, holding the ‘True Cross.’ In legend, it is this cross upon which Jesus is crucified. Saint Helena came across this cross in a dream, and a piece is still buried in the foundations of the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
Karanlik Kilise, the Dark Church is the most famous out of all the Byzantine churches in Goreme. The monastic complex was built in the 11th century and consists of dome, with one main apse, two small apses and four columns. The name originates from the lack of windows and light inside the church. This lack of light has however preserved the frescoes. These frescoes depict scenes from the New Testament, with; Christ as Pantocrator, Christ on the Cross, the last supper and the Betrayal by Judas.
Carikli Kilise is also known as the Sandal Church, as there are two footprints at the bottom of the doorway, opposite the entrance. This fresco is thought to an exact copy of one found in the Church of Ascension in Jerusalem. Carikli Church is cut into the same rock as Karanlik Church.
For some more tours in the nearby area of Goreme, you might want to check out our Cappadocia tours. There are so many tourist attractions in Goreme Turkey, you can visit our office for a brochure for Goreme Turkey. Amongst the many places to visit in Goreme, are the Goreme open air museum, or the nearby hot air balloon in Cappadocia. If you are looking for accommodation in Cappadocia, talk to us for some great hotel deals.