Catal Höyük Fresco
6700-5700 B.C.

During the 1960s an important Neolithic site that flourished around 6700-5700 B.C. was discovered at Catal Hoyuk near Konya. An outstanding collection of tools, artifacts, statues of the mother (fertility) goddess of Anatolia, and seals were found there. The houses were decorated with murals, and among them was a unique fresco dating from 6200 B.C. depicting the houses and city plan of Catal Hoyuk with a large twin-peaked volcano in the background. A volcanic eruption is represented by heavy smoke clouds, flowing lava, and rocks tossed into the air. The volcano represented Hasan Dag, one of the most impressive volcanoes in Cappadocia, and the fresco is considered to be the earliest landscape in history. It can be seen in the reconstructed shrine of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.


Period Of The Assyrian Colonies
1900 B.C.


Mesopotamia exerted economic and political power over central Anatolia before the arrival of the Assyrians. During the third millennium B.C. the Arkadian King Sargon from Mesopotamia advanced into the heart of Anatolia to protect merchants from his country. The beginning of the second millennium was a prosperous time for Anatolia. The Assyrians had learned of this region’s riches and subsequently established trade centers called karums, meaning “port” or administrative center. Eventually at least thirteen karums were established as part of the Assyrians’ extensive network of commercial activities, which spread from the Aegean Sea to the Indus valley. Trade between the people of Anatolia and the Assyrian merchants continued for about 150 years. The “Cappadocian tablets” reveal that the Assyrians were experienced traders who maintained daily business correspondence with their capital, Asur. Other documents such as trade agreements, receipts, wills, and marriage contracts were also found among the clay tablets.


Kultepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh, was the most important karum. Using established trade routes, the Assyrian merchants imported tin, clothing, textiles, perfumes, and other luxury goods to sell in Anatolia. In return they received gold, silver, and copper which were sent back to Assyria. Importing tin was highly profitable for the Assyrians since the local people required it for making bronze. Caravans consisting of as many as 250 donkeys followed trade routes where wabartums had been established. Like the famous caravansarays of the Selcuk period, wabartums provided storage areas and accommodations for people and animals, and also served as trading centers. Due to the threat from bandits, the caravans frequently changed their routes. Assyrian merchants, whose lives revolved around trade, lived in the karum located at the foot of the citadel of Kultepe (Kanesh). Although they often married local women, Assyrians were not allowed to own land, were compelled to pay special taxes for the use of roads and storage of their goods, and also were required to pay a percentage of their sales to the local king. The existence of documents regarding the right of the local kings to punish Assyrians found guilty of smuggling suggests that heavy taxation led some merchants to deal in contraband. Around 1850 to 1800 B.C. the period of the Assyrian trade colonies came to an end as a result of a war between local Anatolian kingdoms.


Arrival Of The Hittites
Towards the end of the third millennium B.C. the arrival of Indo-European tribes arrested the growth of the Hatti, a pre-Hittite Early Bronze Age civilization in Anatolia. The early Hittites probably intermingled with the local Hatti population and formed small principalities that were often at war with each other. Clay tablets concerning that period provide the names of local kings, the most important of which was Anitta (1750 B.C.), who overcame several rival city-states, formed one of the first political alliances in Anatolia, and established his capital at Kiiltepe. The unique culture of the Hittites, which was born and which subsequently thrived in Cappadocia, resulted from the mixture of the indigenous Hattic and immigrant Indo-European peoples.


The Hittites
18th to 12th CENTURIES B.C.


Kings who succeeded Anitta assumed the title, “King of the Hatti.” The Hittite kingdom rapidly gained power, and a later king led the Hittites into Syria where they captured Aleppo, and into Babylon where they eventually brought an end to the legendary Hammurabi dynasty. As a result of these military campaigns, the Hittites established direct contact with the peoples of Mesopotamia and northern Syria.
During the 15th and 14th centuries B.C., after a period of disunity, the Hittites founded one of the greatest empires in the ancient world. Syria and Palestine became battlegrounds for two powerful rivals, the Hittites and the Egyptians. Sixteen years after the fierce battle of Kadesh (1286) in northern Syria, Ramses II signed a peace treaty with Hattusilis III. This treaty was sealed by the marriage of one of Hattusilis’ daughters to Ramses II.


The great Hittite empire finally collapsed during the 12th century B.C. when Anatolia was invaded by seagoing tribes. The ensuing centuries
constituted a “dark age” in central Anatolia which lasted for nearly 300 years until one of the warring tribes, the Phrygians, established its supremacy.


Tabal Kingdom


From the 11th century B.C. Cappadocia was known as the “Land of Tabal” and included central and southern Anatolia where late Hittite kingdoms had been established. Tabal had a close, if turbulent, relationship with the Assyrians to whom they paid tribute even though they resisted domination. During the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. Tabal was frequently attacked by the Assyrians.


Persians In Cappadocia
6th to 4th CENTURIES B.C.


From the 6th century B.C. until the time of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C., the Persians controlled Cappadocia. They divided Anatolia into several satrapies (provinces), each of which was governed by a satrap or “protector of the kingdom,” a Persian noble who ruled on behalf of the empire. The geographer Strabo recorded that during the reign of Darius from the 6th to the 5th centuries B.C., the Cappadocians were required to pay tribute to Persia in the form of gold, numerous sheep and mules, and 1,500 of Cappadocia’s famous horses. The Persians referred to the origin of these highly prized horses as “Katpatukya” (later called “Cappadocia”), or “Land of Beautiful Horses.” Bas-relief located at Persepolis (Iran) depict Cappadocian tribute bearers (wearing Persian clothing) presenting a mule to the king. The longstanding Persian cult of fire-worship was well received by the Cappadocians whose volcanic soil and landscape provided ideal elements for such beliefs. The Persians, for their part, felt that the topography of Cappadocia was well suited to their fire-worshipping cult. Historians have noted that fire temples existed and continued in Cappadocia through the 4th century A.D.


Independent Kingdom Of Cappadocia
4th CENTURY B.C. to A.D. 17


In the mid-4th century B.C. Alexander cut the famous Gordian knot and then traveled to Cappadocia. He appointed a local chieftan as governor of the region and thus upset the delicate balance of power between the Cappadocians and the Persians. The situation was further complicated by the division of Alexander’s empire among his generals (diadochi). Numerous intrigues and battles ensued and continued to the period of the Cappadocian kingdoms, which lasted from the 4th century B.C. to A.D. 17 when Cappadocia became a province of the vast Roman empire.


After the death of Alexander an independent Cappadocian kingdom was established. During this period the history of the region was turbulent and characterized by numerous intrigues. The Ariarathes dynasty traditionally sought political alliances through marriages between powerful families and provincial kings. Cappadocia became a battleground for local power struggles as well as conflicts between the kingdom of Pontus (Black Sea) and the Roman empire.


One of the more notable kings was Ariarathes V, a very learned man during whose reign many scholars and philosophers were invited to Cappadocia, and the friendly relations he established with the Romans lasted until the end of his life. The political and familial alliances that were formed through marriages later led to bitter disputes between the kingdoms of Pontus and Bithynia. Mihridates, king of Pontus, almost succeeded in dominating the region and placing his son on the throne, but the Roman senate intervened and declared Cappadocia an autonomous region.
Finally, in 66 B.C. Pompey invaded Cappadocia and put Ariobarzanes I, of Cappadocian origin, on the throne. The ever-persistent Mihridates dethroned him no less than six times, but with the help of the Romans, Ariobarzanes 1 and his successors prevailed. The struggle for political dominance in the region continued until Cappadocia became a Roman province in A.D. 17.


Romans In Cappadocia
A.D. 17 to 4th CENTURY


During the reign of Vespasian, two Roman legions were established in Cappadocia to protect the area, especially the eastern frontier, from attack by the Parthians. Vespasian also united Cappadocia and Galatia in A.D. 79. At the beginning of the 2nd century, the Emperor Trajan had many military roads built in Cappadocia since the location was crucial to the defense of the eastern boundaries of the empire.
At the beginning of the 3rd century commercial ties between Cappadocia and Smyrna were strengthened Coins bearing the names “Caesarea” (Kayseri) and “Smyrna” (Izmir) were minted, and merchants from Smyrna and Ephesus conducted business in Cappadocia.
From the 3rd century, Cappadocia witnessed invasions by the Sassanid Persians and the Goths, both of whom were repelled by the Romans. During this period Christianity spread in the region, and a diocese was established at Caesarea. In the 4th century Cappadocia gave to the Christian world three important religious leaders-Basil the Great, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus-each of whom played important roles in the development of the church and monastic life in Cappadocia.


Byzantien Period
4th to 15th CENTURIES


At the beginning of the 7th century Caesarea (present-day Kayseri) was occupied by the Sassanid Persians until the Emperor Heraclitus drove them out. Subsequently the Arabs attacked Cappadocia where they remained a threat for the next two centuries. During the Macedonian dynasty (10th century), the Emperors Basil and Leo the Wise were both successful in repelling Arab attacks.
The Byzantine emperors and the local inhabitants decided to take measures against sudden attacks and thus devised a system of defense comprised of several elements: governing by “themes,” an “optic warning system,” the construction of additional forts, a good network of military and trade roads, and underground cities.


The system of governing by “themes” provided for the distribution of land to generals, who were directly responsible to the emperor for protecting each “theme,” one of which was Cappadocia. The land remained under the control of a general who could act independently with regard to recruiting, commanding, and choosing appropriate defensive strategy. The “optic warning system” was established by placing fires and lanterns on the tops of designated hills and mountains in the provinces. This system relayed messages all the way to the Great Lighthouse in Constantinople so that the capital would be informed about the exact moment of the enemy’s attack. Many forts, castles, and watchtowers were placed at strategic positions such as passes and sources of water, and also linked the main towns. In addition to these defensive measures, the local inhabitants carved underground cities for their protection.


Selcuks In Cappadocia
9th to 13th CENTURIES
From the 9th century Anatolia witnessed the arrival of nomadic Turkish tribes from Central Asia, which originated in the Ural-Altai region and dispersed over vast areas from China to Europe. In 1071 during the battle of Malazgirt, which occurred in the eastern part of modern-day Turkey, the Selguk leader Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantines, and thereafter the Selcuks gained undisputed control of Anatolian soil. The Selcuk Turks soon established their own centers of learning.
During the 11th century the Selcuks chose iznik as their first capital but later moved to Konya after the Crusaders captured Iznik and gave the city to the Byzantines. During the next centuries Anatolia became a battleground for Selcuks, Crusaders on their way to the Holy Lands, and Byzantine armies.
During the reigns of Keyhusrev and Aladdin Keykubad in the 13th century, the Selcuks enjoyed a golden-age during which they reached both the Mediterranean and Black Seas where they built shipyards. They also constructed magnificent caravansarays, medreses (schools), and mosques throughout the empire. By the mid-13th century the Mongols started attacking various parts of the empire, and eventually they invaded all of Anatolia. Kayseri was captured and looted by the Mongols, under whose domination the Selcuks remained until 1302.
The Selcuk empire was the first Turkish empire established on Anatolian soil. Although its rise and fall occurred in less than two centuries, this empire laid the foundations of Ottoman culture and art. The Selcuks brought with them unmistakable influences of the nomadic cultures of Central Asia and enriched and enhanced the history of central Anatolia.

Chiristianity In Cappadocia
The persecution of Christians ceased under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great (313-337 A.D.), though it was revived temporarily during the short rule of Emperor Julian II (360-363 A.D.), who wanted to restore the ancient gods and “Hellenism” to the Roman Empire. After the splitting of the Roman Empire into eastern and western parts, Cappadocia was ruled by the Christian emperors of East Rome, which later assumed the name Byzantium.
Under Byzantine rule, Cappadocia was a frontier region subject to frequent raids by Sassanids (Persians), by Arabs and later by Turks. The history of Christianity in the region was influenced by this atmosphere of insecurity. Religious conflicts within Byzantium and the agricultural economy were the other influences which shaped Christianity in this region.
Frequent raids by attacking armies forced Christians to seek refuge in underground cities and practise their religion in camouflaged rock churches. As early as the first century, Christians may have sought refuge in the caves and tunnels carved in the volcanic rocks of Cappadocia.
The borderland atmosphere of Cappadocia meant that local Christianity developed in a secretive and militaristic manner. Secretiveness is reflected in the camouflaged construction of the rock churches. Traces of militarism can be observed in the subjects of the frescoes decorating the churches.
Another factor which forced the Christians of Cappadocia into hiding was the religious disputes within Byzantium.
The development of Christianity in Cappadocia favored the communal existence of monks in monasteries rather than the individual pursuit of spiritual enlightment in secluded hermitages. It is the view of this author that the need for an organized labor force to work agricultural land may have favored the development of monasteries which were productive units as well.


Rock Churches Of Cappadocia
The oldest churches which can be seen today in Cappadocia were probably built during the 6th century. Several churches were built during the iconoclastic period. The most intense period of church building took place during the 9th to 12th centuries. Construction of rock churches continued under Selcuk rule, which started at the end of the 11th century.
Early churches have very simple plans with single aisles. The single aisle plan prevailed in Cappadocia throughout the centuries. However, other types of plan were also developed. The churches are decorated with attractive frescoes. The architecture and frescoe styles are discussed further on.
How Were the Churches Made?
Churches in Cappadocia are simple structures carved into the rock. The technique of construction has not changed in the region over the centuries. Tuff hardens when it comes in contact with air. However, it is very soft when it is wet. Even today, numerous dwellings are constructed in Cappadocia by carving into wet tuff rocks.


Who Were Their Patrons?


The construction of churches was commi-sioned by military leaders, monks, nuns or rich merchants to fulfill a vow, to express gratitude for having survived a long disease or other adversity, to honor a deceased parent or spouse or simply to pay for their sins. The names of patrons would be written on the church walls. Only two merchant patrons are known, and their names are written on the walls of the Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise) in Goreme.


Some of the military leaders who commissioned churches were obviously in the service of the Selcuk Turks, as they are seen wearing turbans and the title of Emir precedes their name inscribed on the walls. One such inscription is seen on the wall of Kirk Dam Alti Church in Peristrama (Ihlara). Patrons could commission whole churches with frescoes, or all or some of money or could be given in kind. Inscriptions on church walls indicate that fields or trees (sometimes a single tree) could be donated to churches.


Church Architecture
Four basic plans can be seen in Cappadocia churches: 1) Single aisle 2) Cruciform, 3) Columned (“Cross-in-square” plan), 4) Transverse vault.


The Single-Aisle Church


The single-aisle is the oldest church plan, dating to the 7th century,and it prevailed in Cappadocia until the 13th century. The best examples can be seen in the Goreme valley. The single-aisle church plan is more common in Cappadocia than in coastal regions, the three-aisled basilica, such as Saint Sophia in Istanbul, being more typical of Byzantine architecture.
The single-aisle scheme suits the needs of tiny rural churches, with small congregations consisting of a few villagers and some monks. However, the small size of village communities was not the only reason why the single-aisle plan was preferred. Otherwise, the existence of a large number of single-aisle churches together in cluster could not be explained.
The simplicity of the single-aisle plan reflects the ultimate reduction in church size while retaining the symbolic values of a church. It was preferred by patrons of limited means who could not afford larger structures, and by individual builders who could undertake the construction of a church on their own.


The Cruciform Church
The church with a cross plan is so pervasive in Cappadocia that some have claimed that it is an invention of this region. However the first cruciform church was commissioned in Istanbul by Emperor Constan-tine and was completed after his death in 337 A.D.


Typical cruciform churches in Cappadocia have four barrel-vaulted arms of equal length. Usually a narthex precedes the entrance. At the end of the east arm there is a horseshoe-shaped arm. Snake Church (Yi-lanh Kilise) in Peristrama Valley is a typical example of the cruciform churches of Cappadocia.


The Columned Church
The so-called columned church was developed in Constantinople and was introduced to Cappadocia by artists who arrived from the capital. The plan consists of a cross-in-square scheme with four columns around a central bay, over which is a raised dome. There are eight more bays in the plan the corner ones being roofed by small cupolas. The arms of the cross are barrel-vaulted. The apse is a niche at the end of the eastern arm of the cross. There are additional niches adjoining cupolas at the corners of the eastern extremity.
The decoration of columned churches, which were constructed in the llth century, represent the most advanced style in Cappadocia. The best-known examples are the Apple (Elmali), Sandal (Cankli) and Dark (Karanlik) churches in Goreme valley.


The Transverse Vault Church
The church with a transverse vault is alien to most Christian lands and very few examples can be seen in Cappadocia. The best known example is the Buckle Church in Goreme, which was one of the most developed and impressive structures in Cappadocia.
In transverse vault churches there is a single barrel vault in a lateral rather than a longitudinal direction. At the eastern end there are three apses, the central one being deeper than the rest.
The source of this type of plan is the pagan temples of Syria and Mesopotamia. The monastic church of Qartamin and the church of Mary Ya’qub Al-Habis at Salah in Syria have similar plans.


Different styles govern the frescoes which decorate Cappadocian churches, varying according to the period when they were executed.
Simple frescoes of the early Christian and iconoclastic period are followed by the frescoes of the archaic period during the 9th and 10th centuries. In the llth centurv, frescoes which reflect Byzantine high art were executed. Some scholars have dubbed these the “new look” frescoes. Relatively simpler frescoes were made during the 13th century.


Early Christian Period
During the early Christian period preceding the lonoclasm, simple symbols related to Christianity were painted. The most prevalent images were crowns of martyrs, deer and fish. Deer symbolize the soul and fish Christ, since one obtains the Greek word for FISH (iktus) when the first letters of the Greek words for JESUS CHRIST SON OF GOD, SAVIOR (lesus Kristos Teo Uisos, Soter) are put together.
The best examples of Early Christian frescoes can be seen in the Zelve valley.


Iconoclastic Period Decorations

In some Cappadocian churches there are very simple decorations usually in red ocher and sometimes in green. These are usually identifed with the iconoclastic period, since they exclude images of Christ, Mary and the saints.
Some of these decorations are abstract designs which can still be seen today on Anatolian craft work such as carpets, kilims or baskets. One such typical design is the triangle. Some of the abstract decorations at the St. Barbara Church in Goreme valley, on the other hand, have been identified as Byzantine military standards or scepters. There are also simple stylised depictions of animals and plants. The dove has always been the symbol of peace and of the Holy Spirit. The peacock symbolized resurrecton. The cock, which is a symbol of the day and of vitality, represents goodness in general. The palm has evolved from the oriental “tree of life” which is a symbol of vital energy and eternal life.
Simple paintings of abstract designs and of symbolic animals and plants which are usually identified with the Iconoclasm, may not belong to that period at all. Rather, these simple decorations may have been executed by local artists or village people, perhaps by the carver of the church himself in order to sanctify the building before sophisticated painters arrived. If they did not, then the church would remain with the simple paintings executed after construction decorating its walls.


Archaic Period
Archaic decorations date approximately from 850 to 950 A.D. During the archaic period, a more or less detailed depiction of Christ adorns the apse. The nave walls are decorated with images of male and female saints at the lower level and with scenes from the life or Christ at the higher level.
Ascetic saints who spent most of their life on earth praying, were shown with open arms. Most other saints have one hand on their breast and hold the cross in the other, emulating the words of Christ: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)
Life-cycle images usually start at the corner where the north wall meets the apse and continue along the south wall via the west wall, ending at the apse and starting again at a lower level, at the same corner where the north wall meets the apse.


The New Look
During the eleventh century, a group of artists arrived in Cappadocia who introduced a more advanced painting style. Such frescoes are seen mainly in the cross-in-square plan churches.
In these churches, the central dome is usually decorated with a picture of Christ and the apse with the Deisis portrait, with Mark and Saint John the Baptist on either side of Christ, asking him to be lenient with sinners. Life-cycle pictures are not complete and only those events which are marked with important feasts are emphasized. Cross-in-square churches are usually decorated with frescoes in the New Look. The Dark Church, Apple Church and Sandal Church in the Goreme Open-Air Museum are the best examples.




Christian monasteries were established in Cappadocia from the 4th century onwards. For purposes of defense and other reasons, monastic communities existed in clusters. In Cappadocia, four such communities have been identified, at .Goreme, Soganli, Ihlara (Peristrama) and at Aciksaray.
According to a decree dated 987 of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II (963-1025), in order to be officially deemed as a monastery a community of monks was required to have at least 8 to 10 members with evident means of support. The minimum age for entering a monastery was fixed at 10 by the Council in Constantinople in 691. This decision was reaffirmed in the 9th century by the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Wise (886-911). Tonsure came at the age of sixteen or seventeen.

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