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Ihlara valley churches

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The earliest period for these churches dates back to the 4th century. The painting technique of the Churhes of the Ihlara Valley can be divided into two. The ones around Ihlara show all the peculiarities of the type known as Cappadocia Style. On the other hand, the ones around Belisirma are decorated with paintings in the Byzantine Style. Therefore the region has no to be divided into two because the two parts have distinct influances. In the fist group are counted the churches of Egritas, Agacalti, Kokar, Purenliseki and Yilanli.

Yilanli Church
Yilanli Church

Dating from the earliest Christian Period these churches have scenes from the Bible influenced by the teachings od basil and Gregory. There are long texts included. There are influances in the details from Egypt and Syria. The agacalti Church, being more influanced by late Roman and Sassanid Empire, has a more eastern flavour. The portrayal of the saints is very different from the Byzantine and Cappadocian styles. The layout is consistent with the ones built in the 5th or 6th century. The other three churches in this section are calssed differently. The representation of the saints are similar but they are much more Mediaeval. There are few texts from the Bible. And they have a definate Syrian inspiration. They are comparable to the churches in and around Goreme. It is noticeable that all the Biblical scenes are done in a symbolic style. In these scenes evil is represented as coming from the devil and woman. The style of clothes is Syrian and Persian, the clothes are of the style worn in the regions under the Islamic Caliphs of the 9th and 10th century. The trappings of the Last Supper, the animals ridden etc are far removed from the Byzantine and cappadocian styles and have more in common with Egyptian, Christian and Romanesque art.

Agacalti Church
Agacalti Church

Only two of the churches have definite dates. The Direkli (Columned) Church dates from 976 – 1025 and St. Georges is a typical example of the art of the period. The representation of a Seljuk Sultan in typical dress demonstrates that this church was constructed with the protection and support of the Seljuk authorities.

Kirkdamalti Church
Kirkdamalti Church

When the Byzantines got the control of the Taurus Mountains and Cilicia back in the middle of the 10th century, new churches were built in the Ihlara valley. The paintings in Bahattin Church, Sumbullu Church and Direkli (Columned) Church were done in that century. The art of Ala Church, Canli Church (in Akhisar) and Karagedik Church was done in the early 11th century and is typical Byzantine. Byzantine style paintings were later additions to the old churches. This practise ended with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century. But religious life in the region continued. Attendance at churches in the region ended with the exchange of populations in 1924.

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