Almut had told us about a fascinating church on the outskirts of Nevsehir, about 10 km from here. This place, build about 200 years ago, was first a Christian church, subsequently a prison, and then closed about 20 years ago and left with all its belongings intact. Over the years between then and now people had descended on the place and carted off all the usable items, including clothes and furniture. It is now an empty shell, existing somewhere in a twilight zone between church and prison, reminders of both still very much in evidence.
Both main entrances to the building are behind bars; inside, the rooms are numbered “Cell 1, Cell 2 …”.
Beside one of the doors is a yellow pillar which can be turned around by hand and, when turned, apparently used to open the door. Each room in what would have been the nave seems to have been painted a different colour; some are blue, pink and yellow. Graffiti adorns the walls.
The ceiling leaks; water drips in and forms pools on the ground and stains the walls and ceilings. It is very disconcerting to see reminders of church architecture in the form of pillars and arches in a building whose interior has been almost completely altered for another, possibly more sinister purpose.
Bits of fresco remain on some of the walls, although the images cannot be made out. It is possible, if one is small, to enter the upstairs space through a hole in the barred door. Willemijn and I slipped inside, went up the stairs and were treated to an interior that still retained much of its character as a holy space.
Niches with paintings and arches were still present; I could make out a nativity scene on one wall.
Many stones stood piled in a corner. A sign on the outside of the building warns people that the building is not to be touched, otherwise locals would make off with the stones one by one for their own building projects and leave only a faint trace of foundations. Such foundations, remnants of old stone homes, can still be seen throughout this area; however, if one did not know these were houses, it wouldn’t be possible to identify them as such.
Outside, another smaller building stands near the church. This was used as a barber shop during the structure’s prison days.
Close by the large church is another, smaller domed building which appears to have been a chapel converted by a local family into their home and subsequently, after the family left or was pushed out, fallen into ruins. Here below the larger of the two domes it is possible to see the concrete skeleton of a house built inside the chapel. The domes have both partially collapsed, as have many of the walls. Again, bits of graffiti stain the walls, along with charcoal from fires and small piles of rubbish.
Next, just a bit farther along the road, still on the outskirts of Nevsehir, we came to another ruined set of buildings. These were once a mosque, then a school, finally torn down by the municipality and left to rot. This place was incredibly interesting, both beautiful and grotesque in its decrepitude. Paint-peeled walls, stained floors, rubbish, broken windows, graffiti, skulls and bones, bits of broken tile, empty nut shells and plastic bottles adorn the empty rooms. Again here the roof leaks and everywhere water was dripping in, from the ceiling, from the broken windows and from the doorframes.
From here, we made our way to Gore (meaning “sight”) and explored a small city of ruined Greek houses on a high hillside lying just outside where the present-day population of the town lives. While we were there, many vans and buses with loudspeakers mounted on their roofs drove by blasting out nationalistic Turkish music urging people to vote this way or that. These houses are made of much darker and harder stone that that in Ibrahimpasa and were painted in slightly different colours, including orange. The overall feeling of this deserted village was not as friendly as that of Ibrahimpasa, probably because of its situation on such a steep, forbidding incline. I would have hated to be an old person in that village … impossible to leave one’s home without help.
As the day passed, the sky cleared and the sun came out; as a result, though, it got very cold and the snow stayed on the ground. We stopped at a place that sold trout from several large concrete pools in their backyard. After Paul’s conversation with the proprietor, he and his son scooped out several trout and gutted them for our dinner – very fresh fish …
I found the day to be absolutely fascinating. These are places that I would never have found on my own; I would never even have known they were there. And they were some of the most interesting spaces I have ever been in.
PS: Today, August 26, 2011, I was delighted to receive an email from Nick, whose grandparents had lived in Nevsehir prior to the Greece-Turkey population exchange in 1924, who provided me with more information about these sites; I take the liberty of posting his message here:
“Vasilis – a cousin of mine – told me about your site, he found newly. I was so fascinated to read your post “Ruins in Nevsehir and Gore” and see your wonderfull pictures!
It’s still a mystery to me, how your fate showed you the way to discover this place, that was till that day unknown to you, but means a lot to us, as this was the city our grandparents lived and had to leave forever 1924 during the dreadful population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
The part of the city you visited was the greek mahalle (neighborhood). The church, dedicated to the Assumption (Ieros Naos Koimiseos tis Theotokou), was builded 1849, during the Tanzimat period and is one of the biggest stone-builded churches in Cappadocia. Unfortunatelly, it was turned into a prison (1950-1983) and still stays in this abject situation…
Also, the chapel you mention was a beautiful hamam (bathhouse), builded 1892. Finally, the tower on your photos is the bell tower of the church of Hagios Georgios, added 1870.
We would like to thank you for posting your photos and sharing your experiences! Looking forward to meat you someday, maybe in Cappadocia”.
Receiving messages like this is one of the joys of blogging!