The churches found in Göreme that have been carved out of the volcanic tuff rock formations and decorated with vivid frescoes should be your first priority In visiting Cappadocia. The main ones include the Apple Church, the Dark, Çarıklı and Tokalı Churches. The columned churches are constructed on a classical ^Byzantine inscribed cross plan with a cupola in the central position which is suported by four columns, They were designed with a nave preceded by a narthex out of which were often cut tombs for the faithful. The frescoes depict for the most part scenes from the life of Christ corresponding to the great religious feasts such as the Nativity, the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Elmalı Kilise: The Apple Church or Elmalı Kilise as it is called in Turkish is the latest made and smallest of those in Göreme. The wall paintings that remain are mostly from the period of Byzantine Iconoclasm. The lightness of style makes them some of the most attractive of this group. The paintings in the Apple Church depict the Journey to Bethlehem, the Nativity, the Baptism, the Transfiguration, the resurectlon of Lazarus, the entering into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the betrayal, the road leading to the cross.
Göreme(Cappadocia) : The Crucifixion, the preparation of th- dead, women at the grave, Christ in Purgatory, the ascent into heaven, the hospitality of Abraham;^three youths in the furnace, and prophets and a deisis.
Karanlık Kilise: The Dork Church or Karanlık Kilise is perhaps the most Interesting cave church İn Göreme because it was part of an important monastery which included several rooms and a refectory. A long table and benches were carved out of the rock here. It has fah-iike vaults and a mined iconostasis. In this one the frescoes, which are among the best-preserved in the region, do not follow a chronological order, unlike most of the other churches. The paintings are from the 13th century and are more realistic than those done earlier. The lack of windows of the Dark Church is the main reason that the frescoes have been so well preserved. Both the depiction of the Ascension In the narthex of this church and the Nativity in the nave are exceptional.
Çarıklı Kilise: The Çarıklı Kilise or the Church with Sandals is so named because of the imprint of two footprints carved under the Ascension. These were copied from the footprints of Christ that were venerated in Jerusalem. Part of this church was destroyed when a huge boulder fell, it has two columns and a groin vault. The frescoes found here are similar to those in the Elmalı and Karanlık Churches, and it is thought that the three were constructed around the same time.
Barbara Kilisesi: The Church of Saint Barbara or Barbara Kilisesi Is, again, typical of those dating from the Age of lconoclasm. This began in the 8th century with the reign of Byzantine Emperor Leo ill in 717 A.D. This period of Instability In the Christian religion started with the lowering of Christ’s picture from the main portal of the emperor’s palace by Leo III. The period reached its peak during the middle of the 8th century when Constantine V Copronymus met with the synod and created a movement to supress the Iconodules, In 767 the Seventh Council was held İn İznik (Nicaea) which resulted in the lifting of the prohibition on icons by Empress Irene. Leo V abolished the council In İznik, and the troubles began anew. The period was finally brought to a close by Empress Theodora In 842. In the Church of Saint Barbara, half of a deisis and a figure to the left of the entrance In the double section were probably done right after the lconoclasm. The colors of the frescoes in the remainder of the church are comparatively dull, and were rather unskillfuliy managed. The figure of Saint Barbara and those of Saints George and Theodors were added later by another artist. The animal paintings are Interesting in that they all carry various connotations and meanings.
Yilanli Kilise : The Yılanlı Kilise or Church of Snakes Is another found In the Göreme Valley. It is so named because of its fascinating painting of the damned represented by coiled serpents. The interior of the church is painted to give the effect of stone blocks’. The walls were painted with red ochre, and frescoes added on top of this. Near the entrance, Christ is represented with the Holy Book in His hand. The domes are painted with two mounted men doing battle with a dragon; these are Prokopios and Theodorus, Helen and Constantine, naked Onophrios with a small plant in front of him, the discipie Thomas, and the Emperor giving benediction to the church are among the other paintings i-n, the Church of Snakes. The church is comprised of two rooms stretching lengthwise; the front room is a barret vault and the back one has a flat ceiling. These above mentioned rock-churches are the main sites of interest in the Göreme area. Also to be found there are the various service facilities such as a bakery, work and storage rooms and houses.
Tokali Kilise : The Tokalı Kilise or Church with a Buckle is located on the road to Avcılar. This is the largest and most interestingly decorated of those in the Göreme group. The lovely wall paintings, dating to the 15th century are beautifully preserved. The narthex is arranged with scenes from the Bible in the order of their occurence in Biblical history, from the Annunciation to the Ascension. The life of Saint Basil Is also depicted on the wails of the TotaJİı Kilise, The entrance leads to a barrel-vaulted hall, adjoined by a long nave. Four columns support the roof and arches. Behind this is an elevated corridor. The whole Interior, including the arches and columns is decorated with frescoes in shades of red and green. Other churches and chapels found in this immediate area are those of Theotokos and Saint Eustachlus. The latter is especially interesting for its bright, well-preserved paintings. A guide Is a must to get a full apprecation of the outlying churches, which include El Nazar or the Eye of Fate, the Kılıçlar Kilise, the Church of Swords, and the Hidden Church or Saklı Kilise.
The symbolism of the frescoes in these churches dates to the earliest beginnings of Christianity and earlier. Thé fish symbol Is the oldest and pmong the most important, it was early interpreted to symbolize the true believers; Christ was the Fisherman pulling the believers out of the Sea of the Damned. This also relates to the Christian tradition of baptism. The rooster symbol, found on gravestones and church towers is used to frighten away the devil, while the rabbit symbol is associated with evli. Rabbit meat was lortg eaten as on aphrodisiac and for other erotic purposes. It has taken on a aspect of fertility as well, and Is very much a part of Christian Easter celebrations which include the egg-distributing Easter Bunny. Rabbit meat was banned by the church in the 7th century. Other early Christian symbols include the palm tree, the peacock, the buil, the pine, and the dove. The palm tree is the symbol of eternal life and paradise, A single branch of the tree is seen in many of the churches In Göreme. Palm branches were spread before Christ when He entered Jerusalem. The peacock – symbol represented reincarnation because of the ancient belief that the meat of this bird would never deteriorate. It was used as a cult bird in Rome and Athens. The buli is among the sacred animals and has been since prehistoric times.
The bull was considered sacred by the Hittites when their empire flourished during the second millenium B.C. The pine, like the rabbit, is connected with the notion of fertility. The branches of the tree are supposedly curative and were used aş an aid to growth, it was also used to frighten off eivif spirits. And the dove, likewise, was associated with fertility. It has long been a symbol of peace, chastity and love of family. In the Christian religion, the pigeon or the dove symbol personifies the peaceful spirits of its martyrs and soints. The Bible gives -a variety of meanings to the symbol including truth, good-nature, innocence, and redemption. The dove was also considered .the bride of Christ or the congregation of the church. It is found in many of the churches of Göreme that were formed during the iconoclastic Period.