1700 year old rock churches

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We have been visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum.  Basically it is all churches carved out of rock.  The whole place was once covered in volcanic rock which has erroded away, while newer volcanic cones made of sterner stuff pushed their way to the surface.

In the 4th century  Christians fleeing Arabs built and lived in clandestine communities, hollowing out the soft rock centres.  Several hundred years later, 842 AD, when they were allowed to worship freely, churches were decorated openly.

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The tiny entrance to the Nunnery.

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Inside one of the living areas for holy people on the run nuns and monks fleeing from Christian persecution in the 4th century.

They all had many little shelves and nooks carved into the wall and cute little sleeping  shelves.

When I  say churches, these are tiny rooms.  Some with a  little altar (apse), many with tombs (including skeltons) – they were definitely a lot shorter back then.

Ollie was great at working out where the fire had been.

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Some of the churches had basic red ochre painted designs, still intact after 1000 plus years.

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Pigeons are big here.  There is even a valley named Pigeon Valley.  These little holes are made for them to nest in.  They have individual holes and apparently they remember which was theirs.  (I overheard a tour guide relating that!)
Their droppings are then collected and used as valuable  manure.  Some rocks are even painted white to attract the birds.  There certainly is much agriculture around here, fruit trees everywhere. (not ripe yet being Spring).

When you go on a balloon ride one of the things they do is dip down low enough so you can pick ripe fruit from the comfort of the balloon basket!!
(Not in our budget unfortunately…)

Anyway, back to churches… No photography allowed inside but I have taken these from postcards

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The Dark Church (they all have quaint names like Sandal Church, Rose Church) has the best frescoes.  They are from the 11th century and extremely well preserved, because of the dark nature of the cave.  This church contained scenes depicting Jesus’ life from Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem.  Here is his birth, love the animals breathing on the baby to warm him.  🙂

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This one of The Last Supper was pristine.  Such bright colours. Many of the paintings have been defaced – literally the faces scratched out by those  not approving of  such religious representation.

Charlie and Hannah shared an audio guide and it was great to hear Charlie relating this well known story to me as we saw it painted on the walls and ceiling….

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There were plenty of tourists around, but in one more week I was told it will go crazy as the summer season begins in earnest. So we very glad to be here now.

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This area is an extremely photogenic place.  Hard not to pull out the camera every few paces….

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A  long table in one of the cave houses.

It is comforting to know that this area is now a Unesco World Heritage site (since 1984) and well protected, although the thousand of tourists wandering through every day can’t be good for preservation.
I am so glad we have got to see such  amazing history while it is still there, let’s hope it survives another 1000 years….

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