Rock Church of El Nazar

Along with a beautifully bizarre landscape, Cappadocia has an abundance of rock churches. These are places of worshipView of Landscape that were carved into the crumbly volcanic rock of the region and many date back for centuries. In the Göreme region, there are many scattered in the various valleys surrounding the town. All it takes is a hike or two in order to find them. But if you’re not up for a hike, there is one rock church that is only about a 20 minute walk from Göreme centre, on your way to the Göreme Open Air Museum: El Nazar.

Walking towards the Open Air Museum, the right hand turn off for the church is about ¾ of the way there. Then it is about a 5-10 minute walk on a quiet path – there are several branches on this main path for other hikes but stick to the main one for El Nazar. The walk is lovely, quiet, and generally people-less. The views can be pretty gorgeous as the walk is through volcanic rock, trees, and scrubby vineyards. It is pretty obvious when you’ve reached El Nazar – the structure is shaped like a wide cone or a tent that sticks right up into the blue sky. Also, there is a sign. Sign to El Nazar

When I first arrived at the church, the door was closed but up a little ways to the right, there was another cave where an older man hangs out. No, he isn’t a reincarnation of John the Baptist. He has set up the cave with as many amenities as he can fit, including tea making capabilities, and this is where he sells the tickets to El Nazar for 5TL. It sounds sketchy but it isn’t – you do get an official Ministry of Culture and Tourism entry ticket in exchange for your money. Once I got mine, the man walked me over to the 10th century church and unlocked the door. After telling me to take as long as wished but “No photos!”, he left. I guess he was just the gatekeeper, not a guide as well. Which was fine with me as being left alone meant I could take the photos I wanted. Kind of anyway – I didn’t use flash as light eventually destroys frescoes and I didn’t want that on my conscience (taking forbidden photos, that’s another thing all together).

Frescoes in these rock churches were very important in the days they were created. Most people couldn’t read so one way to pass on biblical stories was through pictures. The ones at El Nazar depict various scenes including the Annunciation, the Nativity, the raising of Lazarus, crucifixion, ascension, and several others. They aren’t in the best condition because of light, elements, and people over time who used the paintings as target practice. But they are still a beautiful part of history and it was pretty cool to realize that 10 centuries worth of people before me admired these same works of art in this random little rock church of Cappadocia.


7 responses to “Rock Church of El Nazar

  1. As always – a great photo essay! 🙂

    I don’t think I saw El Nazar when I was there. Looks very nice. I fondly remember one place just up the hill from the open air museum. It was a church that was notable for the underground cave that you had to crawl down to reach (actually, first you had to climb some really steep and worn stairs to a ‘bird nest’ level and then go through a hidey-hole in the wall, before winding down a cramped tunnel fairly deep underground).

    The tunnel / cave itself wasn’t actually anything special – especially compared with the big underground cities found elsewhere in the area. What made it great was that I was the only person there. It felt like I was exploring a new-found ruin… 🙂 One of the great things about Cappadocia is that everywhere you turn there is a ‘new-found’ ruin like this. Makes it a great place to just walk around, away from the tourist hordes, and simply explore.

    Your recent postings on this part of Turkey are bringing back many great memories!

    • awesome story, Strato! thanks for sharing – i’m making a note of this so next time i go, i’d like to find this place, too. nothing like deluding oneself in the moment that you’re the first one to find a place 🙂

      • Kendra – Let me know when you do plan on going again and I’ll get the exact coordinates for you. I have a video of me exploring there that I can upload to your dropbox if you want (big file, though – is HD).

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  3. I find rock churches fascinating. The wholeness of creating something out of one piece of rock appeals to me. What remains of the frescos is beautiful, I assume they plastered over the rock?

    There is nothing more wonderfull than being left all by yourself with an amazing piece of history! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Ten Things to Do in Cappadocia | Rusty Travel Trunk·

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