The bizarre rock formations in the Göreme Valley in Anatolia hold a special treasure. Here in the 4th century Christians sought protection from persecution and carved churches, monasteries, Klausen and apartments into the tuff. Since the 6th century, entire cave villages and cities have emerged in the formerly volcanic area formed by weathering.
Goreme National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Goreme National Park and Cappadocia Rock Monuments|
|Natural and cultural monument:||Established in 1986 as a historical national park, area 95.76 km², heights up to 1325 m, Göreme valley an eroded plateau in a formerly volcanically active region; The consequences of weathering are columns, turrets, obelisks, and rock needles that can reach heights of up to 40 m; numerous cave churches decorated with frescoes such as Eustathios Church, Kiliçlar Church and Elmali Church|
|Country:||Turkey, Central Anatolia|
|Location:||between Nevsehir and Urgup|
|Flora and fauna:||Vegetation, etc. with Reseda armena, the sandalwood plant Thesium scabriflorum and the lead root plant Acantholimon ssp., as well as 110 endemic species such as Acanthus hirsutus; Mammals such as gray wolf, red fox, otter, stone marten, European badger; Bird species such as rock pigeon and stone hen|
|Meaning:||Unique cave settlements and churches with Byzantine wall frescoes in a »surrealistic« landscape|
Goreme National Park: history
|probably in the 4th century||first hermitages and “church buildings”|
|around 1100||“Construction” of the Yilanli Church and the Barbara Church|
|around 1200||»Construction« of the Çarikli Church|
|1923/24||Abandonment of the Goreme settlements|
|1957||Discovery of the Church of John the Baptist|
|1980||Completion of the restoration of the Tokali Church|
|1981||Beginning of the restoration of the Karanlik Church|
God’s bizarre vineyard
In the midst of bizarre cones, gorges and fairy chimneys lies one of the most impressive cultural monuments of Asia Minor: the Göreme basin with its cave churches. Millions of years ago, huge tuff masses, which the surrounding volcanoes, especially the nearby Erciyes Daği, had hurled out, covered the depression of the Kizil Irmak with a layer several hundred meters thick. Climate fluctuations, wind and water formed the rugged tuff over the course of time and, through varying degrees of erosion, turned the landscape into a magic garden of nature. Fore more information about Turkey and Middle East, please visit shoefrantics.
Even in the early days of Christianity, people had withdrawn to this remote, paradisiacal landscape in order to spend their lives in asceticism and devotion in solitude. Large communities of monks soon emerged who, together with the farmers living here, developed a new form of monastic life. The soft tufa was made to carve out dwellings out of the rock, and so, alongside the simple dwellings of the peasants, primitive monk clauses and hermitages were created. These “cave settlements” were followed by extensive monasteries, but above all countless chapels and churches, of which those in the Göreme basin are the most important and most beautiful.
All forms and floor plans of Byzantine church architecture, which culminate in the layout of the cross-domed churches, are represented here, but also the wealth and overwhelming abundance of Byzantine fresco paintings. Simple iconographic signs – cross, grape and fish – stood at the beginning of a development which, interrupted by the iconographic controversy of the 8th and 9th centuries, found its culmination with the painting of High Byzantine art of the 11th to 13th centuries. The fresco cycles, which strictly followed the pictorial program of the Byzantine liturgy, always depict the great themes from the life of Christ in the same order: scenes from the birth to the resurrection and the Eucharist. Just like the frescoes in the Romanesque churches of the Middle Ages, they supported the preachers in interpreting the Gospels and the monks in their meditations. However, in the change of conceptions of art during the almost thousand-year history of Byzantium, the sequence of scenes and the composition of the individual scenes varied, the intensity of expression and the power of the colors changed. The columned churches of Göreme and the Tokali Kilise in front of the gates of the historical national park reflect the court art of Constantinople of the 11th century in the highest perfection. It is possible that artists from a painting school in the Byzantine metropolis are responsible for this, who painted the churches on behalf of wealthy citizens of this area. The figures, created over centuries, gain in elegance and richness of detail, the originally stereotypical faces develop individual features and the gestures appear more lively. The “wet” robes, which hug the body tightly and thus bring out its forms, are a characteristic feature of this period. The outstanding example of this art is the Kara Kilise, the “Black Church”. It owes its good state of preservation to the fact that the entrance was buried during the time of the Islamic iconoclasm. Almost completely sealed off from natural light, the frescoes were able to retain their original luminosity. The figures, but especially the faces, are almost intact, so that they represent a special treasure in the context of the figurative design of the churches in Göreme.