Situated in approximately the center of the country, Ankara was chosen to be the capital of the Turkish Republic in 1923. It was a Turkish village of 20,000 people in the early 1900s; today more than five million people live in this modern metropolis. Crusaders captured it in 1101 from Seljuk Turks, and the Mongol ruler Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in the Battle of Ankara in 1402. Among the Christian lore are reports that St. Peter visited Ankara and traveled through Galatia ( Acts 16:6 ), and he addressed his letter to Galatians to people in this region. There was a church of St. Paul that stood there until the end of 20th century. Ataturk’s ( the founder and the first president of Republic of Turkey ) mausoleum, the Anit Kabir, stands alone, massive and bold, a statement of the strenght and stability which were part of his legacy to the nation.
Caesarea – Kayseri
In early church history Kayseri was an important bishopric. Gregory the Illuminator who is reputedly the founder of the Armenian Orthodox Church lived here. As a young child Gregory was taken by his nurse to Caesarea about AD 257 because his father had killed the reigning king of Armenia and the soldiers were after revenge. In Caesarea Gregory was brought up a Christian. Tiriades was the son of the king his father had murdered and became Christian later on. Although married, Gregory became a bishop in 301; his son Aristaces was one of two bishops representing Tiriades at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325. Gregory helped Tiridates destroy the last vestiges of paganism and establish Christianity as the state religion. After the council of Chalcedon in 451, the Armenians broke up with Contantinople ( Istanbul ) over the issue of the nature of Jesus Christ.
The relatively soft volcanic tuff that overlies the region of Cappadocia around Nevsehir came from the nearby Mt. Erciyes. This is an extensive region of odd, conic forms of gray-yellow, some topped with off-angle hats, and many more than 15 m high. When the tuff is exposed to air it hardens, making it ideal for people to hollow out rooms of any shape or height, since the walls and ceilings do not need supports. In Turkish these cones have been poetically called Peri Bacalari – Fairy Chimneys.
The 3rd or 4th century people who carved churches may have come as anchorites wishing to withdraw from secular life. They may have been inspired by their contemporary Basil the Great who founded the ascetic Basilian monastic order. Those who lived here were called ” troglodytes”, a word meaning ” cave dwellers”.
None of the churches has a specific, defining architectural style. Over 3,500 rock churches have been identified in the area. The main development of the community began at the end of the iconoclastic period in 843. Many narrative paintings date from the 10th and 11th centuries. The Church of Kokar ( Kokar Kilise ) in Ihlara ( a late 9th century church ) has a scene of shepherds playing bamboo ney-like flutes while below them are attentive, stylized sheep.
The Church of St. Eustace ( 970 – 1148 ) in Goreme shows the Flight of Elizabeth with her pursuer holding a drawn bow. On either side of her are two graceful trees. A striking representation of the Last Judgment can be seen in the 11th century The Church of Yilanli also in Ihlara. The band of scenes at the top shows Christ seated between two angels. Twenty-four elders stand in formal attendance on the ceiling, each holding a book with a letter of the alphabet . On the right side are four women who represented lust, disobedience, slander and the abandonment of children; they are being punished by snakes. The frescoes of The Church of Kiliclar are from the early 11th century.
Scenes of the Journey to Bethlehem ( Virgin Mary sits side-saddle), the Nativity , the Crucifixion and the Death of Virgin Mary are on the ceiling of the larger nave; portraits of ten martyrs are on the other. The faces are individual , and many of the men wear jeweled clothes. The three hundred years of paintings from 900 to 1200 represented in The Old and New Tokatli Church are often used for illustrations of Cappadocian art. Because of the styles and colors used, the frescoes in the crypt and the front part of the church are dated about 920; those in the apse were added when the building was enlarged at the end of 10th century and then painted again. In the ceiling above the entrance to The Church Elmali ( 1190 – 1200 ) there is a scene of the Ascension . Each of the faces of the Apostles in this was carefully drawn to show the individual faces. Whatever their symbols, and however naive or sophisticated they were, the artists intended to represent eternal truths, usually in ways that were disturbing even for their time. Often the faces are portraits that allow us today to see back to these medieval artist’s understanding of character.
For many present-day visitors, the rock churches of Cappadocia have a surrealistic charm. The stories the frescoes illustrated are often unfamiliar ; the faces, the shapes and the colors are uncommon. Surely those medieval residents must have hoped that their art would last and that they might communicate powerfully to an age they never would have imagined. The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia are a striking example of how geography and human habitation have worked together, and how geography has influenced people’s imaginations. Perhaps the fact that the art has survived is not only because of the isolation that the region has enjoyed , but also because of the respect and awe which the geography help evoke.
Derinkuyu & Kaymakli Underground Cities
The Underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli near Nevsehir open for visitors. These were early Christian centers and must have housed several thousand people in the 8th and 9th centuries. They extend downward in the earth for at least 8 floors in a maze of tunnels and rooms and were easily defended by blocking the entrance with large rocks. So far 36 underground cities are known SEBASTE – SIVAS In Christian history, Sivas was known as Sebaste, the place of the Forty Martyrs who lived during the time of the Emperor Licinius ( 308 – 324 ). These forty men who refused to worship the emporor and the Roman state were forced to stand naked on a frozen lake until they died. ( Note the frescoes in several churches in Cappadocia that tell their story. )
Iconium – Konya
Konya is almost due south of Ankara; it has long been crossing point for many trade routes. Today its definition is its importance as a place of Christian and Muslim pilgrimage. Two thousand years ago Konya was called Iconium; St. Paul preached here on his first missionary journey. St Paul and Barnabas went first to the synagogue as was their custom. There they spoke so effectively that they made many converts ( Acts 14: 1-6 ). They stayed in Iconium for some time until they had gotten word that a group of Gentiles and Jews together were plotting to stone them, so thet quickly moved on to Lystra and Derbe. Konya’s renown today as a religious center is because of its association with Mevlana and the Whirling Dervishes. For Mevlana, love was greater than any formal religion. He spoke of searching for God in Christendom without finding him on the Cross; of searching in Indian temples and finding Him neither in idols nor in fire; of searching all over the Kaaba without success; and finally of looking withing his own self. He welcomed everyone, regardless of creed, ethnicity, social statues or past behaviour, at his shrine of hope and love. The traditional warm Turkish hospitality still reflects this welcome. Mevlana’s invitation to all join in his discipline is seen in his often quoted quatrain, Come, come again, come ! Infidel, fire-worshipper, pagan, Whoever you are, however often you have sinned, Come ! Our gates are not the gates of hopelessness. Whatever your condition, Come ! The Service of The Whirling Dervishes ( Sema ) is another expression of the soul’s unending search for the unattainable: In sema the whirling of the dervishes expresses the search for God in all directions. Their stamping is to crush selfishness under foot; their jumping is their attempt to rise to God. Bowing means the complete submission of one’s soul to God. The position of the hands is important : The right arm is held upward toward God, the left downward to the earth; the two make a balance, the dervish freely transmitting to fellow humans all that he receives from God. ( Iconium : Acts 13:51, 14:1-4, 19, 16:2, II Timothy 3:11 )
Antioch of Pisidia – Yalvac
St. Paul and Barnabas visited Antioch on their first missionary journey, going to the synagogue on the Sabbath ( the Jewish day of worship ), and St. Paul was asked to speak to the congregation. In the Bible this is St. Paul’s first recorded sermon. What St. Paul said about Christianity so interested his listeners that he had an overflow audience the next week. That crowd included many who did not regularly attend the service, and the members of the synagouge took violent exception to what St. Paul was doing. He berated them when they objected to the presence of the outsiders. St Paul was following the custom of the Jewish congregation in Antioch – on – the – Orontes of welcoming Gentiles into the congregation. However, the jews of this Antioch did not want either the strangers or the missionaries. Instead, leading Jewish women and city elders had St. Paul and Barnabas expelled from the city. In their anger these citizens continued to harass the missionaries wherever they went in Pisidia.
( Antioch of Pisidia : Acts 13:14-52, II Timothy 3:11 )
Lystra – ilistra
A complicated incident is reported in Acts concerning the visit of St. Paul and Barnabas to Lystra. St. Paul noticed in the group gathered to listen him a lame man whose bearing impressed him. Some extraordinary strength passed from St. Paul to the man who thereupon was cured. The miracle caused a commotion in the crowd, and people began shouting in their native language, Lycaonion, that the strangers had supernatural powers, that they were gods. Barnabas was called Jupiter and St. Paul was taken for Mercury because he was the spokesman. St. Paul and Barnabas acted promptly by denying the identification , stating their Christian beliefs, and tearing their clothes to avert any evil that might come of the presumption. But the crowd was excited and some of the Jews from Antioch and Iconuim who had been waiting to do violence to St. Paul and Barnabas took this change to turn the love to hatred. The crowd became a mob, stoning St. Paul . He was saved only by his friends forming a circle around him. ( Acts 14:8-20 ) When St. Paul was in Lystra on his second missionary journey ( Acts 16:1-3 ) he met a young disciple named Timothy. Timothy’s mother was Eunice, a Christian Jew, and his father was a gentile. Timothy may have been part of the circle that protected St. Paul when he was stoned there earlier. But that can not be proven. Timothy was well regarded by the church in Lystra and became a close friend of St. Paul’s and, upon circumcision, his companion through most of that journey. He was also in Ephesus with St. Paul on his third journey, with him at Corinth ( Acts 18:5 ), and a companion of his prison, probably in Rome ( Hebrews 13:23 ) ( Lystra : Acts 14:6-23, 16:1-4, II Timothy 3:11 )
St. Paul and Barnabas went from Lystra to Derbe after St. Paul had recovered from being stoned. No details of St. Paul’s first stay in Derbe are reported, and the only other possible reference to it outside of its being mentioned in the second journey is the identificiation one of St. Paul’s companions between Greece and Troas as ” Gaius the Doberan” or ” Gaius the Derbean”. St. Paul and Barnabas both spoke to people in Derbe ans won many converts ( Acts 14:21 ); their ties with the people there continued strong enough that St. Paul returned a year or so later.
( Derbe : Acts 14:6, 20-21, 16:1, 20:4)