The Dark Church is one of the most important remains of the Byzantine Cappadocia. This church in Goreme is one of the historical monuments that have preserved its originality to the present day.
The Karanlik Kilise (local name of the church), which is visited by thousands of tourists every year, must be added to your list of things to do in Cappadocia.
History of the Dark Church in Goreme
The history of Dark Church goes back a thousand years, that is, to the Medieval Byzantine period. Dark Church, one of the most important tourist attractions of Cappadocia, offers us information about the medieval monastic life.
The Church receives a very low amount of light from the small window in the Narthex and the name of the church comes from here. Since the sunlight was low, the frescoes remained largely alive. In fact, according to experts, the Dark Church has the best preserved Frescoes in Cappadocia.
Built in the 11th century, the Dark Church is in UNESCO World Heritage List alongside with Goreme National Park. The church is located in the Goreme Valley of Cappadocia, which was one of the most popular areas of those who wanted to retreat during the Byzantine period.
Cappadocia, a home to Christian monks for centuries, changed identity after the fall of Byzantium. Cappadocia, where the monasteries were abandoned, became a living space of the people thanks to its favorable geography. Recent sources say that the church was used as a pigeon’s nest until the 1950s.
Some experts attribute the long-term preservation of the frescoes in the church to pigeon manure. The fact that the magnificent frescoes of the church have survived to our day is pleasing for art and history lovers. Many events in the Bible are depicted on the walls and ceiling of the church.
One of the large domes of the church is dedicated to the fresco of Christ Pantocrator. Since the frescoes are sensitive to light, it is not allowed to take pictures with the flash inside.
The important events in the Bible are told through the Byzantine art on the walls of the Dark Church. The most important of these scenes are Annunciation, Baptism of Jesus, Raising of Lazarus, Metamorphosis, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion of Jesus, Harrowing of Hell, The Three Marys, The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles, Ascension scenes.
Best Frescoes in the Dark Church
Located in Goreme, the most visited tourist destination in Cappadocia, Dark Church hosts magnificent frescoes. These works of art from the Byzantine period give us clues about the Christian art of that period.
You can find a selection of the best frescoes in the Dark Church, known as the Karanlik Kilise, in the lines below. Of course, each mosaic is valuable, and choosing the best is a subjective decision. But I tried to introduce the best preserved ones.
1. Christ Pantocrator
It is possible to come across Christ Pantocrator, an important description of Christian iconography in many churches in Europe. Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known religious icon, is depicted as Jesus making a sign of consecration with his right hand while holding the holy book in his left hand.
The word Pantokrator means “the master of the universe”. This depiction adorns the large dome of the Dark Church and is identified with the church.
Deesis, like Christ Pantokrator, is an icon in which Jesus is in the center. Jesus, who stands in the middle of the icon, carries a book with him, next to the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. In this mosaic depicting the Last Judgment, Mary and John ask God for mercy on behalf of sinful people.
3. The three Marys
According to a scene in the Bible, three women who come to Jesus’ grave see that the sarcophagus is empty. The names of these women are Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas, Mary Salome. This narrative takes place in the Gospels of John, Mark, Luke and Matthew. The three Marys are portrayed in the frescoes in the Dark Church, the most important historical monument of the Goreme Open Air Museum.
Dark Church Entrance Fee 2021
Entrance fee of the Dark Church of Goreme is 25 Turkish Lira per person. Admission is free for children under 8 years. Museum Pass is not valid for the entrance. The Dark Church is located within the Goreme Open Air Museum, but you will still need to purchase a separate ticket to enter here.
The Opening Hours of the Church
The Dark Church opening hours are between 08:00 in the morning to 19:00 in the evening during the summer season. In the winter season it closes two hours earlier and no visitors are allowed after 17:00. Since the Church is within the Goreme Open Air Museum, the same times are valid for both.
Visiting hours at the museums in Turkey may change each year. Therefore, you should check the official website of the Goreme Open Air Museum before visiting the church.
Recommended Blog Post
There are many rock churches to see in Goreme Open Air Museum. For more information about Goreme, which is the number one tourist attraction in Cappadocia, you can read the article titled History of Goreme Open Air Museum.