Göreme Open Air Museum
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Göreme Open Air Museum is a monastery complex of cave churches, chapels, dining halls, grave chapels etc, registered as UNESCO Heritage in 6th December 1985. Especially, it's an importance because the first monastic education system began in Göreme Open Air Museum. Later on, continued in different parts of Cappadocia such as Ihlara, Soğanlı and Açıksaray Valleys.
As big cove into soft tufa rock, between 4th century to 13th century, Göreme Complex has been decorated with beautiful frescoes of Jesus's life and New Testament. Besides, it's possible to see the layers of the simple geometric mothifs directly on rock, of early Christian era.
Actually, it was a huge complex of caves. Today, on the way to the museum from Göreme town, you can see many caves around it but mostly collapsed unfortunately. Even in the museum, you can see many sections are not allowed to visit. You can visit three main churches, four chapels, five dining halls and many other cave rooms used as stables, storages and cave rooms of hermits, priest etc.
It's easy to visit in deed, you need to follow the path that is making a shape of 'O', all the sections along this path and you can see the signs clearly. You're not allowed to take photos or videos and no guide allowed into any cave with paintings.
The 6-7 storey rock mass to the left of the museum entrance is known as the 'Nunnery'. The dining hall, kitchen and some other roomson the first floor, together with the ruined chapel on the second level, can't still be visited. The church on the third story, which can be reached through a tunnel, has a cruciform plan and a dome with four columns and three apses. Templon on the main apse is rarely found in the churches of Göreme. Besides the depiction of Jesus, painted directly on rock, designs are with the red ochre.
Today, unfortunately, it's not allowed to visit because of the safety precautions. Even, you may may the cracks on the ceilings of the caves from outside and some pieces of stone crumbled from the upper parts of the nunnery.
ST. BASIL'S CHAPEL
It is a transversally rectangular and barrel vaulted chapel of 11th century. Graves can be seen inside and outside of it but the decoration is not well-preserved. You may a depiction of Child Jesus with Virgin Mary, St George and St Theodors fighting with the serpent and a portrait of Jesus. The rest of the figures are just the mothifs painted with the red ochre.
As one of the well-preserved church of the open air museum, Apple Church dates to mid. 11th and early 12th century. After passng through a tunnel, you get to the entrance of the church. Featuring four columns holding nine domes, it's a close cruciform type.
Actually, It's a church where you can see the early decoration and later period of frescoes. The frescoes of Jesus' life and the red ochre mothifs of crosses beneath it.
ST. BARBARA CHAPEL
Late 11th century chapel of St Barbara is hosted in the same piece of rock of Apple Church but the paintings couldn't survived. You will mostly the mothifs of red ochre. On the contrary to other caves of the museum, you may see some intresting symbols of red ochre in St. Barbara Chapel such as mythological animals, military symbols and mothifs resembling stonework.
Chapel dating to 11th century is a small vaulted chapel and an incompleted. Decoration is relatively better than St. Barbara Chapel. On both side of the chapel's vaul the respected saints of Cappadocia were depicted.
KITCHEN - STORAGE - REFECTORY
These three sections lie side by side and connected by passageways. The first was used as larder, the second was the kitchen where you can see a 'Tanduri' , a type of oven and the third one was a refectory in which a long table was carved of the rock. On the right of the table, a winery hollowed in the ground to squash the grapes.
This late 12th and early 13th century church is one the best of Cappadocian Churches. It's called 'Dark' because of the tiny window in the nartex that allows some light into the cave and because of this, colors of the frescoes are still vivid, just like painted a few weeks ago.
One of the main churches of the complex, Sandal Church dates to late 12th century and early 13th century. The well preserved frescoes show the life of Jesus, hospitality of Abraham and imagines of the saints but depictions like 'the way of the cross' and 'Descent from the Cross' make it different than the others.
ST CATHRINE'S CHAPEL
The Chapel of St. Cathrine of 11th century was carved by a donor called Anna. Inside of it, similar to those in St. Basil Chapel, Graves on the ground and two arcosolia (burial niches) can be seen. Only in the nave of the chapel, figuretive decoration were painted and some different mothifs of crosses on the doorway of the chapel were carved.
This is the oldest known rock-cut church in the region which dates to 10th century. It comprises four sections ; The Old Church, The New Church, The Lower Church (under the old church) and The Parecclesion.
The life of Jesus in chronological order in mainly bright red and blue colors but the tone of the dark blue color serves to distinguish Tokalı Church from the other churches.