The volcanic surface–cover of Cappadocia has undergone erosion by rain, snow, floods, streams, strong winds and changes in temperature. Although the soft, porous rock, known as tufa, is readily carved and shaped when moistened, afterwards it rapidly sets hard. Here, the geological structure of the locality has facilitated the formation of underground townships and cave churches. The first Christian immigrants to arrive in this region settled in the underground dwellings opened up by the Hittites two thousand years before. These were enlarged and developed. They became a safe refuge and hiding-place for these Christians and were equipped with wells, food storage houses cemeteries, ventilation and heating facilities.
Turkey – Cappadocia, Uchisar
Christianity reached Cappadocia very rapidly. Although it is not known for sure whether Saint Paul ever visited Cappadocia on his journeys to spread the Gospel, it is definite that the populace of this area who had accepted Christianity, suffered heavy oppression and massacres, until the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, granted recognition of their religion. In the fourth century CE this region became the religious centre for a large number of theologians. After the fifth century, the populace was subjected to attacks from the Sasanians and the Arabs and was obliged to withdraw into the underground dwellings. The remains of the so-called Hidden Church, built in the sixth century in the form of a basilica, are still standing. Coloured frescoes decorated the walls of the cruciform churches built in the eight and ninth centuries. Between 730 and 843 CE, the iconoclastic period, some of the townships of Cappadocia hid and sheltered those who sought to protect the holy paintings. When banning and repression of holy painting were lifted, the art of fresco painting developed and flourished.
Turkey – Cappadocia, Zelve Valley
Turkey – Cappadocia, White Church.
Its ancient name was Hromgla, nowadays the place is called Rumkale. It is estimated that people first settled there in the 9th century BCE. It is said that St. John duplicated the drafts of the New Testament and hid them in the castle. The standing buildings are the products of the late Roman period and the Middle Ages. Hromgla was very important during the 12th Century, when it was the seat of the Armenian Patriarch, Saint Nerses, who made ecumenical contact with Latin and Byzantine churches and also with Muslims and Jews. He is the last Patriarch to be formally elevated to sainthood and all Christians recognize him as a saint. His grave at Rumkale is visited by Armenians, Syrian Christians, Yazidis and Muslims. Sacrifices are offered in the name of this revered person by all who favour the idea of interfaith dialogue.