Cappadocia’s science and thought base, Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the most special places where the monastery life reigns for thousands of years. The story of the valley starts around the 4th century BE. The Bishop of Kayseri, Saint Basil, came to the region to spread his teachings and began to raise students so that the life of the monastery became prevalent. The region, also called Göreme Örenyeri, continued to be the center of education and training system until the 13th century.
Information About Göreme Open Air Museum
This valley, where almost all rock blocks were engraved into worship, life and teaching fields, and where holy art combined with art, entered the Unesco World Heritage List in 1985.
There are dozens of monastery churches and chapels in the Goreme Open Air Museum, where visitors can come to Cappadocia and can’t leave behind without seeing, the inspiration of St. Basil, the sculptures of thousands of monks who have been past, and the Göreme Open Air Museum. The painting techniques of the kilns vary according to the turn of the year. Geometrically patterned paintings of the Early Christian period, when the vital life began, leave its place with religious content later on. Most of the frescoes telling the stories of Jesus and the Bible are still waiting for the energies of those times having the scent of the time, the colors have not faded, and the energy saying “We once lived the greatest” is unexhausted.
“The Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the most visited places in Cappadocia”
Where is the Göreme Open Air Museum
Even though the answer to “How to find Göreme Open Air Museum?” is answered the best with saying “Following the inspirations of Saint Basil”, Göreme Örenyeri is 13 km from Nevşehir, 2 km to Göreme, and 3 km to Ortahisar and Çavuşin. Goreme Open Air Museum is 6 km away from Urgup and you can reach by going right after the junction of Ortahisar.
Opposite the Goreme Open Air Museum is the Swords Valley. There is also a large car park for the visitors coming in the car.
Göreme Open Air Museum 2018 entrance fee is 30 TL. If you have a Plus Museum Card (Müzekart +), you can visit it unlimitedly and if you have a Museum Card, it is 2 times a year. You can use your İş Bankası credit card instead of a Museum Card too.
Göreme Open Air Museum Churches
The Göreme Open Air Museum, which combines different races and different languages as a roof for centuries, has a different importance in terms of religious art history. The large churches around the dining halls make up a huge monastery complex. Apart from 11 cafeterias and churches that can be visited at Göreme Open Air Museum, there are 18 churches closed to the entrance with iron bars due to the danger of collapsing at any moment.
At Göreme Open Air Museum, you can visit the Girls and Boys Monastery, Saint Basil Chapel, Elmalı Church, Saint Barbara Chapel, Saint Catherine Chapel, Serpent Church, Dark Church, Çarıklı Church and Tokalı Church. According to the architects of these churches and their periods, there are 2 categories as ‘Columnar Churches‘ and ‘Serpent Churches‘. The columned churches include the Dark Church, the Elmalı Church and the Çarıklı Church, whose wall paintings are integral. There are examples of Serpent Monastery, Serpentine Church, Azize Barbara and Azize Katherine chapels, which are independent of each other, which do not have a logic alignment, and which tell different stories.
Monastery of Priests and Sisters
At the entrance of the Goreme Open Air Museum, visitors can visit only two times the 7-stored Sisters Monastery carved on the rocks on the left. There are connections between the floors of the monastery. In dangerous situations, bolts were used to close the mouths of the tunnels. On the first floor, there are several rooms with cafeterias and kitchens, while on the second floor there is a ruined chapel. The entrance to the church with 3 abscissas on the third floor was closed because it was not safe. There is a fresco describing Jesus Christ, made directly on the rock, with red beads on it.
The Priests Monastery, which is located across from the Monastery of the Sisters and has a total of four stores, is closed due to erosion, and only a few rooms on the ground floor can be opened. The name of the monastery is also known as the Monastery of Women and Men. Students who received religious education in the monastery, dated to the 11th century, were divided into different regions to spread the teachings and told the public Christianity.
Saint Basil Chapel
The small chapel, which is made up of grave attachments, is often called the church which is dedicated to important people. The chapel dedicated to St. Basil at the entrance of Göreme Open Air Museum is again from the works of the 11th century. In the Narthex section, separated from the main section of the church by columns, are the graves of important people. There is a chapel with 3 abscissas, which is in the form of an oblique rectangle and has a barrel vault. The main abscissa depicts Jesus Christ, Child Jesus and Mary, Saint Theodore on the horse in the north wall, and Saint George, Saint Demetrius, and the other saints in the south wall, fighting with the dragon.
The Elmalı Church, one of the most important and most visible churches of Göreme Open Air Museum, is located to the right of the entrance to the Monastery of Girls. If the church is special, it is because of the architectural and unique ornaments. The cross-planned church was built with three abscissas, four columns, and nine domes. Each of the domes was the symbol of different religious teachings. The paintings of the church, which was restored in the 1990s, were painted again to its original colors, but the frescos with disappearing colors left untouched. The church is dated to the beginning of the 12th century and the middles of the 11th century. Although the church can be entered from a tunnel opening from the north, the main entrance is from the south.
The name of the Elmalı Church was taken from a statue found on the dome in front of the main abscissa. This illustration depicts Michael holding an apple-like object in his hand. Other depictions include the rituals of both Christians and Jews, and the Bible and Torah scenes are truly worth seeing. The first ornaments in the church are made up of crosses and geometric shapes painted with red paint. The human destructions of these artifacts on the walls of this work of art, which nature has preserved throughout history, does make people feel disappointed at the exit of the church.
Saint Barbara Chapel (Elmalı Stone Church)
The chapel behind the rock of the Elmalı Church was built in the 11th century. Devoted to Egyptian Barbara, whose father killed because he was a Christian and who rose up to be a martyr. In the ornaments on the walls there are no human depictions; however, there are geometric designs with red vaccine paint and mythological animal depictions. Again, there is an inscription on the wall that seems to be a prayer. The cross-shaped plan was built with a cradle vault in the north, south, and west of the cross. On the central dome is a huge portrait of Jesus.
Serpent Church (Yilanli Kilise)
The square shapes resembling the gavel on the entrance gate of the Serpentine Church, according to a custom, became a method of drawing Roman soldiers who wanted to share their goods after Jesus’ crucifixion. In each square, there is a name of one of the properties of Jesus, and the soldiers were taking the one from which the stone that they threw lands on. The reason for the small architect which was left undone was believed to be because of the bad luck coming from the death of a saint.
The serpents fame was from the image of Saint Onuphrius as a monk in the Egyptian desert as a male with a long beard in frescoes and as a woman with a breast, while the name of the serpent was taken from the image of the green dragon who fought with St. George.
The plan of the Snake Church, which was left unfinished, was built as rectangular and barrel vaulted. The grave of the southern part of the annex was left flat. The church is entered from the north and seen directly opposite the entrance, Jesus with a Bible on the left hand and with the bishop of the church. On the eastern part of the vault, there is a representation of saints, and to the west is a palm tree with a long-haired, bare-faced saint Onuphrius. The church is dated back to the 11th century.
After the Serpent Church, we are going to the Dark Church. The first building is a cellar where the pile of groceries kept by supplies. The structure in between is a kitchen and there is a trench carved in the rock. The third and final building is a dining hall consisting of stone rows and tables, where an average of 50 people can eat together. On the right side of the dining hall is a shrink.
It’s a dark church with a single light from a tiny window. The greatest good of the darkness was that the paintings inside could keep its freshness without any sun destruction. The church can be entered through a stairway. In the wall paintings, which seem to increase in attractiveness after restoration and appear to be almost 3-D, there are not only the depictions of Christianity but also Judaism and Torah. The great representation of the three fingers of Jesus on the main dome symbolizes the father-son-sacred spirit triumvirate. Those who see the church describe these depictions as ‘unexplainable’ or ‘beyond spectacular‘.
You need to buy a separate ticket next to the Göreme Open Air Museum entrance ticket to enter the church and remember that Müzekart is not at the entrance of this church. The reason why this place is treated differently from other places is to reduce the number of visitors to the church that has a crowded congestion to some extent. But this practice must have further increased the mystery that no one leaves the Göreme Open Air Museum without seeing the Dark Church.
The Dark Church is built with four columns, plus one large and two small, three domes. Since it was used to feed pigeons until the 1950s, it took 14 years to clear the filth on the frescos. Like the Serpent Church, the church is dated to the 11th century and holds the title of the best-preserved, most mysterious church in Cappadocia.
Saint Katherina Chapel
It is estimated that a Christian donor named Anna, built the chapel which has a free-cross plan with a center-dome and in which 11 graves are found. According to a rumor, Saint Katherina was an Egyptian monk who saw Jesus in his dream and found his wedding ring on his finger when he woke up. Anna had this chapel built in honor of Saint Katherina. In the chapel, the arms of the crucifix architect were made with cradle vaults and the figures were used only in the naos section, which is called the holy section. The dome corners called pendentives are decorated with geometric reliefs. The chapel which has depictions from the Bible is dated to the 11th century and is located between the Dark Church and the Çarıklı Church.
The Çarıklı Church is dated to the end of the 12th century, the beginning of the 13th century and is located in the same rock mass as the Dark Church. Despite similarities with the Elmalı and the Dark Church, the scenes depicting Jesus’ crucifixion show differences. In the frescos found in the church, each figure is long and large, which are the church’s original characteristics.
The name of the Çarıklı Church is taken from the footprints under the fresco depicting the ascension of Jesus to the sky, which is right at the entrance of the church. These frescos also resemble the fresco in the ‘Ascension Church of Jerusalem‘ in Jerusalem.
There are two main pillars in the church, while the other pillars are shaped as pillars at the corners of the walls. It was built as a cross vault, four domes, and three abscissas. The main dome depicts the Pantokrator of the Christian Orthodox sect, that is to say, the universe master Jesus, which is said to have been used in the Hagia Sophia dome. In addition, angel busts are depicted in the same dome. Angel Michael in the southern abscissa of the church; Mary and Child Jesus in the northern abscissa and Deesis in the main abscissa has depictions. The cycle that processes the life of Jesus Christ is the best-preserved portrayal with the Torah scenes including Abraham.
Other subjects in the frescos include entrance to Jerusalem, change, women in the empty grave, three astrologers, betrayals, baptisms, saints and the New Testament. There is also a cafeteria under the church, where Jesus and the Apostles’ last supper is depicted.
Tokalı Church is the largest and oldest rock church in the region that can be visited with a museum ticket although it is outside of Göreme Open Air Museum. The church, which is thought to have been built in the 10th century, is divided into 4 sections as old, old church, new church, and chapel. The old church was built as a single nave, a cradle vault, and while the new church was being added to the structure the abscissa collapsed. The new church annex is again a rectangular plinth, with a cradle vault. The scenes are processed on the vault and on the tops of the walls. The cycle, which presents cross-sections of the life of Jesus, is divided into panels in a sequence, telling the story on the vault from the left to the right side of the left canal. The similarity of the church to a large tomb, pictured in the abscissa section, caused the church’s name to be called ‘Tokalı’. Also on the left side of the abscissa section is the stage where the multi-armed Erubin and Kerubin angels depicted in paradise carrying the god’s throne in the scene, showing the interestingness throughout the history.
Whether you are a Tokalı Church or a Goreme visitor, we recommend you to see those places slowly and carefully. Because you will see the most beautiful Virgin Mary of the region here, you will feel like you are walking in the most famous chapels in the Vatican, watching a religious documentary. In the Tokalı Church, which contains all the delicacies of Byzantine art, the staging of the murder of the prophet of Zachariah, the meeting of Jesus and John the Baptist, the healing of the blind man, the rising of Jesus Christ, and the descent to hell have been perfected. You will also find a dark blue coloring that you will not see in other churches in Tokalı Church decorations where red and blue colors dominate.
Even though in Göreme Open Air Museum churches, the purpose is teaching and worship, each of them has become a stoppage that takes the pulse of the different mystical winds and takes you from one period to another. While visiting Goreme Open Air Museum, it is not known whether it is Inspiration or monks who tell stories, but you will feel like you are always touched by the hands in the history.