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Göreme Open-Air Museum

Göreme Open Air Museum

Göreme Open-Air Museum, M.S. IV. century XIII. It is a rock settlement that hosted the monastic life extensively until the 19th century.

In the area forming a valley, churches, chapels, dining halls and seating areas are carved inside the rock blocks.

Göreme Valley is considered as the place where the monastic education system was started, the same education system was seen in Soğanlı, Ihlara and Açıksaray at a later date.

While the geometric ornaments used in the early periods of Christianity in churches can be seen in the first layers of paint uncovered, frescoes made in the later dates are Bible and Hz. It depicts scenes from Jesus’ life.

In Göreme Open Air Museum, Girls and Boys Monastery, St. Basileus Church, Elmalı Church, St. Barbara Church, Snake Church, Dark Church, Çarıklı Church and Tokalı Church can be visited.

Göreme Open Air Museum has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a natural and cultural asset since December 6, 1985.


Göreme Open Air Museum Churches

Combining centuries of different races and different languages ​​as a roof, Göreme Open Air Museum has a different importance in terms of religious art history. Small and large churches lined around the dining halls form a huge monastery complex. Apart from 11 dining halls and churches that can be visited, there are 18 churches in the Göreme Open Air Museum, the entrance of which is closed with iron bars, because of the danger of collapse at any time.

In Göreme Open Air Museum, Girls and Boys Monastery, St. Basil Chapel, Elmalı Church, Saint Barbara Chapel, Saint Katerina Chapel, Snake Church, Dark Church, Çarıklı Church and Tokalı Church are open to visitors. These churches are divided into 2 categories as “Columned Churches” and “Snake Churches” according to their architecture and transfers. Columned churches include the Dark Church, Elmalı Church and Çarıklı Church, which have holistic murals. The Sisters Monastery, the Serpentine Church, the Saint Barbara and the Saint Katherina chapels, which are independent from each other, have no logic order and tell no story, are examples of the Serpent Churches.


Nuns and Monks Monastery

At the entrance of Göreme Open Air Museum, only two floors of the 7-storey Nuns Monastery carved into the rocks on the left can be visited. Connections with tunnels were made between the floors of the monastery. In dangerous situations, slide stones were used to cover the tunnels. On the first floor there are several rooms with areas such as dining hall and kitchen, while on the second floor there is a ruined chapel. The entrance to the church with 3 apses on the third floor was closed because it was not safe. The church has a frieze that depicts Jesus, made directly on the rock and embroidered with red ornaments on the sides.

On the other hand, the connections between the floors of the Priests Monastery, which is located across the Nuns Monastery and has a total of 4 floors, were closed due to erosion, and only a few rooms on the entrance floor could be opened to visitors. The name of the monastery is also known as the Girls and Boys Monastery. In the monastery, which dates back to the 11th century, students receiving religious education were distributed to different regions to spread the teachings, and they explained Christianity to the public.

St. Basil’s Chapel

Churches built with small and grave additions, usually dedicated to important people, are called chapels. The chapel dedicated to St. Basil, located at the entrance of the Göreme Open Air Museum, is one of the 11th century works. There are graves of important people in the Narthex section, which is separated from the main part of the church with columns. The chapel, which has a nave rectangular shape and a barrel vault, has 3 apses. The main apse features depictions of the Prophet Jesus, Child Jesus and Mary, St. Theodore on a horse on the north wall, and the horse-mounted St. George, St. Demetrius and saints on the south wall.


Elmalı Church

Elmalı Church, one of the most important and most visible churches of Göreme Open Air Museum, located to the right of the entrance after passing the Girls’ Monastery. What makes the church special is its architecture and unique decorations. The cross-planned church was built with three abscissa, four columns and 9 domes. Each dome became the symbol of different religious teachings. The painting of the church, which was restored in the 1990s, was repainted in accordance with its original, and frescoes that disappeared were not touched. The church is dated from the mid-11th century to the beginning of the 12th century. Although the church can be entered through a tunnel opening from the north, the main entrance is from the south.


Elmalı Church took its name from a depiction in the dome in front of the main apse. This picture depicts Michael, who holds an object similar to apple in his hand. Other descriptions include the rituals of both Christians and Jews that the Bible and Torah scenes are really worth seeing. The first ornaments in the church consist of geometric shapes and crosses, painted directly on the wall and embroidered with red paint. The destruction of human artifacts on the walls of this work of art, preserved by nature throughout history, does not twist one at the exit of the church.

Saint Barbara Chapel (Elmalı Rock Church)

The chapel behind the rock with the Elmalı Church was built in the 11th century. Dedicated to Barbara, the Egyptian, who killed her father for being a Christian and who was considered a martyr and rose to sainthood. The chapel, which has no human depiction on the ornaments on its walls, is decorated with red ocher geometric patterns and depictions of mythological animals. Again, there is an inscription on the wall that is thought to be a prayer. In the cross-shaped plan, the north, south and west branches of the cross were built with barrel vaults. In the central dome, there is a great portrait of Jesus Christ.

Serpent Church

According to one rumor, the square shapes on the entrance door of the Serpentine Church were a draw method of Roman soldiers who wanted to share their goods after Jesus was crucified. In every square, one of Jesus’ goods is written, and the square from which the soldiers were thrown from afar would take the property. The reason for the architecture, which remained unfinished in the small church, was that it was believed that the death of a saint or saint during his construction brought bad luck.


The Serpent Church takes its reputation from the depiction of St. Onuphrus, who wanders in the Egyptian deserts as a monk, with a long beard in frescoes, as depicted as the green dragon that fights St. George is compared to the snake.

The plan of the Yılanlı Church, which was left unfinished, was built with a rectangular and barrel vault. The ceiling of the additional space with graves on the south side is left flat. The church is entered from the north and opposite the entrance, there is a depiction of Jesus carrying the Bible in his left hand with the church’s banister. There is a depiction of saints on the east side of the vault, and Saint Onuphrius with long hair and naked body in front of it with a palm tree.

The period when the church is dated is the 11th century.

While passing to the Dark Church after the Serpentine Church, there are 3 buildings lined up one after another. The first structure is the cellar, which consists of cavities where food is stored. The structure in between has a tandoor built as a kitchen and carved into the rocks. The third and last building is a refectory consisting of stone rows and tables where an average of 50 people can eat together. On the right side of the refectory, there is a cocoa.

Dark Church

It is a dark church that only gets light through a tiny window, but still. The greatest goodness of darkness has been that the paintings and depictions in it can survive to the present day without being destroyed. You can enter the church through a stairway. In his murals, whose attractiveness increased and seemed almost 3D after the restoration, he depicts not only Christianity but also Judaism and the Torah. The great depiction of the Prophet Jesus, located in the main dome, combining the three fingers, symbolizes the trilogy of the father-son-holy spirit. Those who see the church define these depictions as “live as soon as they are described” or “beyond magnificence”. In order to enter the church, it is necessary to purchase a separate ticket next to the Göreme Open Air Museum entrance ticket and let us remind that Müzekart does not pass at the entrance of this church. The reason for being treated differently from other places is to decrease the number of visitors of the church, which is crowded by crowd. However, this application should have increased its mystery more that nobody leaves Göreme Open Air Museum without seeing the Dark Church.


The Dark Church was built with four domes, one large and two small, and four columns. Since it was used to feed pigeons until the 1950s, it took 14 years to clean the dirt on the frescos while it was being restored. The church, just like the Yılanlı Church, dates back to the 11th century and holds the title of the most protected and mysterious church in Cappadocia.

Saint Katherina Chapel

It is estimated that a free cross plan with a central dome chapel with 11 tombs was built by a Christian donor named Anna. According to legend, Saint Katherina was an Egyptian monk who dreamed of Jesus in his dream and found his ring on his finger when he woke up. Anna built this chapel for her respect for Saint Katherina. In the chapel, the arms of the cross architecture were made with barrel vaults and the figures were used only in the naos part called the holy section. The dome corners called pendants are decorated with geometric reliefs. With the scenes taken from the Bible, the chapel where the depictions of saints are frequently used is dated to the 11th century and is located between the Dark Church and the Carik Church.

Çarıklı Church

Çarıklı Church is dated to the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century and it is located in the same rock mass as the Dark Church. Although he has similarities with the Elmalı and the Dark Church, Hz. The scenes depicting Jesus’ crucifixion and removal from the cross differ. Long and large portrayal of each figure in the frescos in the church is one of the features that make the church unique.

The Carikli Church was named after the footprints under the frieze depicting the ascension of the Prophet Jesus, who was at the entrance of the church, and the depictions of the beautifully rendered czeched feet. This freshness is also similar to the one in the ‘Ascension Church’ in Jerusalem.

While the church has two main columns, the other columns are shaped as pillars at the corners of the walls. It is built with a cross vault, four domes and 3 abscissa. In the main dome, the Pantocrator, which is frequently used in the Orthodox sect of Christianity, namely the uncharted, head-mounded ‘Lord of the Universe’, is depicted that this style is also used in the Hagia Sophia dome. Also, angel busts are depicted in the same dome. Melek Mikael on the South apse of the church; Mary and Child Jesus in the northern apse; the main apse features Deesis depictions. The cycle, which processes the life of the Prophet Jesus, and the Torah scenes on the Prophet Abraham are among the best preserved depictions.

Other topics covered in frescos include entry to Jerusalem, change, women in the empty grave, three astrologers, betrayal, baptism, saints and scenes from the New Testament. There is also a refectory under the church, where the last dinner of the Prophet Jesus and the Apostles eaten before the Roman soldiers was pictured.

Tokalı Church

Although Tokalı Church is outside the Göreme Open Air Museum, it is both the largest and the oldest rock church in the region, which can be visited with a museum ticket. The church, which is thought to have been built in the 10th century, is divided into 4 sections as the old, the church under the old church, the new church and the chapel. The old church was built with a single nave, barrel vault, and the apse was destroyed while a new church was added to the building. The new church extension was made in transverse rectangular plan with a barrel vault. The scenes are engraved on the vault and on the tops of the walls. Offering sections from the life of the Prophet Jesus, the cycle was divided into panels on the vault in a sequence that tells a story from the right wing to the left wing. The comparison of a large sphere depicted in the apse section of the church to the buckle also caused the name of the church to be referred to as ‘Tokalı’. Again on the left side of the apse section, the scene of the multi-armed Erubin and Kerubin angels, which are believed to carry the throne of heaven, has remained interesting throughout the history.


We recommend that you visit the church with an arrow before you enter Göreme Ruin or after visiting the ruins. Because you will see the most beautiful Virgin Mary freshness of the region here, you will feel as if you are watching a religious documentary or wandering in the most famous chapels of the Vatican. In Tokalı Church, which contains all the subtleties of Byzantine art, scenes such as the killing of the prophet Zechariah, the meeting of the Prophet Jesus and John the Baptist, the recovery of the blind man, the rise of the Prophet Jesus to the sky, and the descent of hell have been processed perfectly. In the Tokalı Church decorations, which are dominated by red and blue colors, you will also find dark blue coloring that you do not see in other churches.

Although the purpose is teaching and worship in the churches of Göreme Open Air Museum, it has touched each of them as if it was the breeze of different mystical winds, making it different stops from cycle to cycle. While you are visiting Göreme Open Air Museum, it is not known whether inspiring fairies or monks telling stories, but you will feel as if someone is touching your shoulder.