The first place we were scheduled to visit was the Goreme Open Air Museum. On the way, we caught sight of the unique rock formations. Amazing! So many, many formations which seem they belong out of this world. Looking closely, here and there, we saw windows and doors. People still live within these rocks! Our tour guide told us these rock formations are the result of ancient volcanic eruptions. There are areas where the soft rock eroded with time, forming tall thin pillars called fairy chimneys.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is just a small part of the large area of rock formations where you will find many of the soft rock carved out to form houses, churches, monasteries. Goreme became a monastic center between 300 to 1200 AD.
The Chapel of St. Basil.
The first chapel we entered was the Chapel of St. Basil. It is a very small chapel with simple frescoes on the wall. It was amazing to think of the early Christians who worshipped there in early times. Because there were so many of us in the small chapel, taking pictures and marvelling at the experience, it was a challenge to be there as a Christian and not just a tourist.
The next church we entered was just amazing! Hmmm, seems like I can't stop saying the word amazing! Well, it was fantastic! The frescoes there are so beautiful! The designs and the colors are wonderful! In Goreme, the many chapels and churches have depictions of the Old and the New Testament stories because these were used to teach people about the Christian religion.
Sadly, many of the frescoes were damaged during the iconoclastic period, when there was the the deliberate destruction of the religious icons because some people believed it was a sin to paint these icons.
The Dark Church
The most well preserved church in Goreme is the Dark Church. Here, there are still some frescoes that are intact. Apparently, since the churches are hidden inside the rocks, the iconoclasts did not find the church right away. As I looked at the fresco of Jesus above the altar, I marveled that the same recognizable face we see in churches today was depicted in the painting of so long ago. In the frescoes, all Christians are painted with haloes and Jesus is identified by the cross in his halo.
Here, there is a small underground chapel and a large fully decorated Church over it. There are so many bible stories depicted in this church. The Last Supper, the Annunciation, the Nativity, Lazarus and many other bible stories. There is also a Madonna and Child that has been often copied by other artists.
Visiting Cappadocia reminds me of Jesus' promise to Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The Christians of Cappadocia had to hide in their rock homes and churches to escape persecution. They even lived in underground cities. But Christianity managed to survive such hardship and although Christians are a minority in Turkey today, Christianity continues to remain strong and vibrant in many places, even in far off countries like the Philippines.