Most museums are designed in glass buildings but in Cappadocia, the authentic cave dwellings that connect to the past are open air. Located uphill, in the most popular town in Cappadocia is Goreme Open Air Museum. It’s one of the first designated UNESCO World Heritage site in Turkey during 1984. Goreme Open Air Museum offers a wealth of history. It has triple the entrance fee compared to Zelve Open-Air Museum. This can be attributed to the value of paintings found inside the churches.
Goreme Open Air Museum showcases ancient paintings, chapels, churches and cave houses in bygone eras. It draws plenty of tourists for its fairy chimneys giving glimpses to the past lifestyle of people who used to inhabit these parts in Cappadocia. These cave churches were carved by medieval Christian monks who settled here in the 4th to 13th centuries. These are where they displayed Byzantine frescoes. Naturally, as time went by, these frescoes were subjected to damage but it’s now beautifully preserved as a link to appreciate the ancient times.
These Byzantine cave wall frescos displayed scenes from the Old and New Testament with images of saints. Since Christians were persecuted ages ago, they built their temples in this valley region where rock cut churches are hard to find. They did so to continue praying and protect their faith. St Basil, a Bishop taught Christianity in this sanctuary.
Goreme Open Air Museum is a fantastic monastic complex connecting several ancient churches, chapels and living spaces. These carved rock churches in Cappadocia are stunning and impressive. Even the paintings held inside are distinctively vivid. Some of the frescoes are beautiful and elaborate making you marvel at the monks’ creativity and resourcefulness.
The churches you’ll find in Goreme Open Air Museum are made to look like replicas of actual churches replete with architectural details such as columns and high vaulted ceilings. Among the holy sanctuaries, churches and chapels you’ll find here are the Nunnery, St Barbara Church, Apple (Elmali) Church, Snake Church (Yilanli), Dark Church, Cave Church, Saint Basil Chapel, St. Catherine Chapel, Buckle Church (Tokali) and others.
At the entrance area, you’ll find the Nunnery. It comprises of 7 stories containing a kitchen, dining hall, a couple of rooms, a church and a secret tunnel. Sometimes, they close it down depending on their renovations for safety reasons.
Apple (Elmali) Church
Apple Church is given that name as one of the frescoes depicted Archangel Michael. He was holding an apple thus the name given. Elmali or Apple Church has a unique architecture with interesting decors. It has 9 amazing domes and 4 columns to admire.
Famous for its beauty, Karanlik Kilisi or the Dark Church is referred as such since there’s only a tiny window where the light can illuminate the place. The darkness actually emphasized the vibrant colors and scenes shown on the frescoes. The Dark Church existed since the 12th century. It was covered with pigeon waste as it used to function as a coop for pigeons. It was only in the 1950’s that the frescoes were restored and all the pigeon droppings were cleaned off from the elaborate paintings.
Buckle (Tokali) Church
Once you exit the main entrance of Goreme Open Air Museum, you can find Buckle Church. This one is nearer the parking lot but no less impressive. It contains 4 main chambers with the grandest fresco images that portray Christ’ life. The frescoes’ colors are brilliant and will leave you in awe. Back then, paper printing was hard so in Cappadocia, they learned to paint story representation of their spirituality to strengthen their faith and share their teachings.
If you want to catch glimpses of the way people lived and worshipped in the past, seeing the cave dwellings, churches and chapels is the best way to go. The beautiful art depicted in frescoes will capture your interest as you admire the dedicated artwork and faith of people who lived long ago.
Aydınlı Mahallesi, Yavuz Sk. No:1 D:No:1, 50180 Aktepe/Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey
15 Turkish Lyra / $3 USD
Included in the Red Tour
Daily: 8am - 6:15pm