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Writer: Yavuz İşçen
July 2007

Ihlara valley succeeds in amazing people who see it for the first time. The valley sometimes reaches 100 m in height and winds for 14 km between the Selime and Ihlara towns of the Aksaray province. In the middle of the valley runs the Melendiz stream, whose antique name is Potamus Kapadukus. Besides its unique nature the valley contains about 100 partly hidden churches, 13 of which are visited frequently. We would like to introduce you to seven of these churches which can be reached via the entrance of the Ihlara Valley Open Air Museum.

Sümbüllü Church
This double storey monastery church was carved into a rock where the front side was decorated. Since the main entrance is blocked by natural forces, the entrance to the church is gained via a narrow window. The frescoes inside the church are from the 10th, and early 11th or 12th centuries. A very damaged illustration of Christ Pantocrator ("The all-powerful creator") is displayed in the middle dome while Virgin Mary carrying Jesus between Michael and Gabriel is illustrated on the main apse. The Sleep of Saint Paulus and the Announcement scenes displayed on the south wall of the apse are interesting. There are also illustrations of Konstantin and Irene in a niche in the middle of the church.
Ağaçaltı Church
This church was called two other names; the Daniel Church, as it contains a fresco that illustrates Saint Daniel amongst lions, and Pantanassa Church due to an inscription thought to be dedicated to Pantanassa. The church has a dome and is laid out in a cross. The entry to the church is via the collapsed main apse. The frescoes in the church are dated before the Iconoclasm period (725-843) or between 9th and 11th centuries. On the left of the entrance are scenes of the Announcement, the Visit, the Nativity, and the gifts of the three kings. On the north arm of the cross are illustrations of the flight into Egypt, the Baptism and Death of the Virgin. The west arm is decorated with geometrical patterns as well as motifs of plants and shows St Daniel amongst lions while on the left of this scene are depictions of the three roosters announcing the birth of Jesus. On the big dome of the church, better preserved illustrations of the Ascension surrounded by the portraits of apostles and prophets are displayed.

Pürenli Seki Church
This church which is carved into a rock, consists of four chambers. The entrance leads to the main chamber from where the other chambers can be reached. One of the chambers was used as a funeral room with graves under the basement. In between the figures, are illustrations of plant and geometrical motifs. The frescoes are dated between the early 10th and 12th centuries. The frescoes of the church mainly depict the scenes from Jesus's life such as the Prophecy of the prophets, Virgin Mary and bishops, the Announcement, the Visit and the worshipping of the shepherds.

Kokar Church
This single storey church was carved lengthways into a rock. The entry is gained via the collapsed apse. Later on, the church was extended towards the west by adding two funeral rooms with graves in the floor. The frescoes in the church date back to the late 9th century or the second half of the 11th century. On the south wall of the church are displayed scenes of the Announcement, the Visit, the Proof of the Virgin, the Nativity and the worshipping of shepherds. The west wall shows scenes of the flight to Egypt, the last supper, the betrayal of Judas, the arrest of Jesus and the judgement, followed by the crucifixion and the burial. The dome of the church was illustrated with the Ascension of Jesus and in the middle of the dome there is a big crucifix that symbolizes Jesus surrounded with apostles.
Yılanlı Church
Since the main entrance of this church, which is carved into a rock and planned as the shape of a Greek cross, has collapsed, today the entry is through the end of the collapsed entrance corridor. Yılanlı Church differs from the other churches in the valley because of its plan and the subjects of the frescoes which depict scenes from the bible as well as the after-life. The frescoes date back to the 9th century and between the early 11th century and the 12th century.  This church was called Yılanlı Church (The Church with Snakes) because of a fresco, which is depicted on the west wall of the church and shows four naked sinner women being attacked by snakes. The same wall also illustrates the last judgement scene which is worth seeing. Portraits of 24 chaplains and 40 martyrs from Sivas (Sebaste) are depicted here as well.

Karanlık Kale Church
It was carved into a rock as a monastery and doesn't contain any frescoes. This church dates back to the 9-10th centuries or the mid 11th century. The church is carved in relief with eye-catching square and cross motifs. The cross-shaped burial room located on the north-east of the church has a small dome and two burial places.

Eğritaş Church
Built before the Iconoclasm period (725-843), Egritaş is thought to be one of the oldest and largest churches of the valley. The west part of this two storey church has been destroyed. Under the main structure there is a chamber for funerals leading to the grave rooms. Several graves in these rooms can be seen today. The wooden floor that separates the two storeys has also collapsed. This church catches the attention as it contains a variety of frescoes, unfortunately these have been badly damaged. It is understood from two different inscriptions that the church is dedicated to Virgin Mary. The frescoes in the church mostly include subjects from the Bible. The scene where Virgin Mary and the angels are depicted together is interesting with its richness in color. Among the most important frescoes of the church are the Nativity, the Denial of the apostle St. Pierre and foot washing scenes.

Note: This article has been published in Peribacası Cappadocia Culture and Publicity Magazine, July 2007 issue. It is under protection of the copyrights of the magazine. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by electronic, mechanical or other means without prior permission from the owner.


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Reading Reading: 3471 Eklenme Tarihi Date: 2009-06-18

Ağaçaltı Church
Ağaçaltı Church
Eğritaş Church
Eğritaş Church
Kokar Church
Kokar Church
Pürenliseki Church
Pürenliseki Church
Sümbüllü Church
Sümbüllü Church
Yılanlı Church
Yılanlı Church

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