Christianizing Roman Basilica:
Early Christianity in Cappadocia & Monasticism

Gulsehir Open Palace-St. John Church

Study visit to central Anatolia focusing on architectural formulas of early Christian edifices with amazing wall paintings from 8th to 12th century.  Early Christians escaping Roman persecution nearly 2000 years were sheltered in Central Anatolia. From monk cells to monasteries, Cappadocia witnessed  chaotic historical changes throughout the ages. 330 AD, St. Basil set the pattern for monasticism in the Eastern Church “Messelian” movement, which comes from Syrian word meaning “to pray”. Those who were influenced by this spritiual movement though that no human activity should be undertaken apart from prayer. Among those who adopted this attitude, some remained within the church, others left. In the 4th century, Basil tried to lead them and the ‘encratists’ back to orthodoxy. Basil took pains to minimize distinctions between the Christian and monastic vocations. Basil’s effort to maintain a distinctive idendity for the communities while avoiding separatist, sectarian rhetoric is notable even if not always successful of structures and policies; over time, the communities inevitably became increasingly ‘monastic’ in identity. Basil’s work has been of great importance for the development of Byzantine monasticism.

Topics: Christian Art and Symbols & Architecture, Asceticism, Monasticism

Overview  3  nights/4 days

Biblio Traveler Advisory Mix & Match the destination with Istanbul & Aegean Region

Pottery workshops, Hot Air Balloon ride over the dramatic landscape of Cappadocia

Highlights

Soganli Valley featuring Kubbeli Complex and St. Barbara Church with prayer walk through the burials and tombs.

As the nature of Cappadocia the landscape preserves the rock-cut architecture, soo too it preserves the rock cuttings for burials. All types of churches and chapels are out fitted for burial in Cappadocia: Arcosolium tombs are ubiquitous in the region.

St. Basil Church in Gomeda Valley is a quiet and unique place for asceticism. For this reason the valley is fully decorated with Chapels and cells. St. Basil Church is one of them and located on the skirts of a tufa heap and observes total silence. Called “Cappadocia sytlite”, at one point or another, some portion of the myriad caves in Cappadocia surely housed members of the more solitary persuasions of monasticism.

Goreme Open Air Museum is located in the Goreme Valley, number of small communities with their own churches formed the large monastic complex towards the end of the A.D 3rd century. St. Basil of Cappadocia, was educated in Istanbul and Athens with full interest in Syrian Saints, who taught him how to attain enthusastic piety and keep his body under submission by asceticism-a sojourn which seems to have led him to advocate community life, prayer and physical labor rather than the solitary asceticism that was “popular” at the time. It was under his guidance that the first churches were built in the  Goreme Valley.

Red Valley is probably the most amazing route among all valleys in Cappadocia. Walking along the labyrinth-like formations you can spot monk cells in every corner and come across a friendly smile from a local who works in the fields. The colour of the valley comes from ıronoxide and provides the back drop for an amazing sunset.

St. John the Baptist Church is the oldest and the biggest church in the Cappadocia triangle so we will have the opportunity to study it in terms of early Christian art. By looking at the church it is obvious the way they have Christianized the Roman ‘basilica form’. In the 4th Century, Christians wanted to build larger edifices for worship. Architectural formulas of pagan temples were associated with pagan belief so they didn’t want to use the same system. But as emperor Constantine the Great wanted to memorialize his imperial piety, they already had useful model at hand, the Basilica. The Basilica was originally a very classic model of Roman meeting halls with high platforms and large columned halls.

Gulsehir Open Palace : It is evident through Philipus, Mathaus and Jacobus how important the Open Palace setting was. This is where the apostles begun their mission journeys from to Europe and Asia. We continue our tour to the Opposite Church in Gulsehir to explore and understand more about the wall paintings. Early Christian art not only used Roman forms, it also used Roman styles. The later classical style included a proportional portrayal of the human body and impressionistic presentation of space. Another important occurrence in history of Christian art was image-breaking”,  the deliberate destruction within a culture of the culture’s own religious icons and other symbols or monuments. The two Byzantine outbreaks during the 8th and 9th Centuries were unusual in that the use of images was the main issue of dispute, rather than a by-product of wider concerns. For iconoclasts, the only real religious image must be an exact likeness of the prototype -of the same substance- which they considered impossible as they saw wood and paint as empty of spirit and life. Thus for iconoclasts the only true (and permitted) “icon” of Jesus was the Eucharist, which was believed to be his actual body and blood. For this reason, churches got back to basics and used only early figures to indicate their beliefs in geometrical forms.