The final in a series of blogs on the theme of architecture and religious structures (see Parts 1, Part 2 & Part 3) this week we will spotlight an extraordinary structure in Cappadocia, Turkey. Located in central Turkey, Cappadocia was once known as Hatti, the homeland of the Hittites.
Of all the countries I have visited, I believe that Turkey has one of the most diverse and amazing landscapes. On one particular tour of Turkey, our itinerary included a visit to Göreme. Our group was excited to see this place, now designated a World Heritage site.
One Sunday morning as the bus pulled out from our hotel, our group leader announced that he had a surprise for us. The surprise was a secret; therefore, he gave us no details. Travelling off the beaten track, away from Göreme, the bus climbed the steep rocky mountains of Cappadocia and we eventually arrived at an amazing structure. A Turk, who was privy to the secret, opened an iron gate and led us into a tiny church hewn out of solid rock. It was hundreds of years old and not a part of the usual tourist itinerary.
Our leader, an Anglican minister, conducted a brief service and served communion inside the quaint little church. Afterward I sat on one of the low narrow benches and gazed at the structure, wondering if it was real! I will always cherish the memory.
We then travelled to Göreme. It is here that the landscape seems surreal. Centuries ago, three volcanoes—Erciyes, Hasan, and Melendiz Dağları—erupted, spewing ash and mud which solidified into a soft rock called tuff, and covered the former plateaus. Realizing that the rock was pliable, the people began carving chambers, tunnel, places of worship, storehouses and dwellings into it.
During the early days of Christianity, the area became a religious refuge. Christians fleeing persecution by the Romans, arrived here in numbers and built monastic communities. The monks excavated dwellings and monasteries and created frescoes on the cave chapel walls as far back as the seventh century. We were able to feast our eyes on some of these fabulous paintings.
But Mother Nature is more dramatic than humans, and over time, erosion has shaped the incredible landscape of the Göreme valley. Cappadocia is covered with rock formations created by wind and water that has left behind a fairy tale landscape of pillars, cones, mushrooms, and chimneys (the fairy chimneys) which are as tall as 130 feet (40 metres).