There are over 4,000 rock-cut churches in Cappadocia … People have lived in this area since Hittite times, and the Christians that arrived 2,000 years ago moved into and expanded the Hittite underground cities that were already established here. The soft rock generated by the volcanoes in this area, called tufa, is very easy to carve and people were able to hollow areas of the hills to live in and worship in. All the churches are very small, designed to hold no more than 20 people. This is because of a third century controversy about the nature of Jesus Christ, having to do with whether he was equal with and the same as God the Father or God’s son, a lesser being. Bishop Basil asserted that latter, while Rome insisted on the former. Therefore, an edict came from the Vatican that the monastic communities of Cappadocia could be no larger than 20, presumably so that they did not propagate this “false doctrine”. Communities were split up, and those leaving simply set up shop 50, 100 or 200 meters down the road and built another church and monastic complex in the next fairy chimney.
In the valleys there are also tunnels, large and small. And the entrances to some of the churches are very high up. This indicates that in times past there may have been much more water here and possibly boats moving through the valleys. Apparently, some monasteries have constructions that look like docking areas.
One of the ruined cave houses next to BCH was owned by a man – Shah Dede(King Grandad) or Hadj Ibrahim (Hadj meaning one who has gone to Mecca) was his name – who had made a pilgrimage to Mecca during the last years of his life. As a result, he was allowed to paint his house blue; bits and pieces of this blue paint remain on the ruined walls of the building. After he died about four year ago, the family simply abandoned the house, leaving all the stuff in it as it was. It has quite a few rooms; one has enormous clay urns, one has enormous baskets, one has tools and equipment for animals, others have clothes and boxes. The entrances to some of the rooms are blocked so I haven’t been able to find out what’s inside them. It’s a fascinating material relic and museum to this man’s life. I’m going to set up one of my name installations in one of these rooms.
I am still amazed that people have simply left these houses empty and moved away; once abandoned, the structures fall apart fast. The climate here is quite harsh; as a result the landscape changes and things erode and disintegrate amazingly quickly. In spots the ground is quite thin and has caved in around these houses’ foundations. Because of the softness of the tufa stone and the quickness of the erosion process, structures such as churches and monasteries sometimes disappear from view, having been covered by rocks or falling dirt or shifting sand dunes.
In the olden days, Ibrahimpasa was a pretty important stop on the Silk Road, along with Mustafapasa and Uchisar. Product-laden camels used to navigate these streets. The grand visier of the time, Ibrahim, allowed the village to tap into his ten kilometer long water tunnel and, in gratitude, the people changed the name of this town from Babayan to Ibrahimpasa (“pasa” meaning something like “boss”). The living room of the BCH, in which I eat dinner, used to be a stable where a single camel was housed – you can still see the trough out of which it ate.
See pictures here.