Gülşehir Town - First settlements in Cappadocia
Gülşehir (pron. Gülshehir), which means in Turkish a Town of Rose, is situated on the southern bank of the Kizil (Red) River, 20 km from the town of Nevsehir.
Gulsehir has been the site of many settlements since the Hittite period. In the vicinity of Gulsehir, in the village of Gokcetoprak, there are still rocks and steles inscribed with Hittite symbols.
Known under the name of Zoropassos during the Persian Kingdom, it was called Arapsun under the Roman & Byzantine Empires and later, became one of the important Islamic centres.
The town flourished under the patronage of Seyit Mehmet Pasha, better known as Kara Vizier (Black Vizier), who was born in Gulsehir and became a minister of state in Istanbul.
The most outstanding historical monument in the town is the Kulliye built by Kara Vizier Pasha in 1779 in the Ottoman Baroque style. It includes a mosque, a medrese (madrasah) and the fountain
Aciksaray (Open Palace):
Situated in the vicinity of Gulsehir, is an important site of remains and deserted cave-village with rock-cut dwellings and chapels, to which the local inhabitants have quite recently given the name Aciksaray (Open Palace). The village is remarkable for its facades and the odd-looking formations, some resembling huge mushrooms, trees, even human faces. On the first floor of this two-storey settlement are wine cellars, water canals and graves. The frescoes on the upper floor are also interesting to see.
This small settlement can be dated back to the 10th or 11th centuries. It covers an area of one square kilometre and contains eight complexes gathered around three-sided courtyards, each with a decorated main facade.
The first complex on the right from the entrance has one of the best elaborate facades in Cappadocia. The complex has two irregular rooms and one rectangular, in which a large equal-armed cross is carved on the interior wall above the entrance. Their heads are lost when a window-like opening has been cut on the wall. Only in Aciksaray, you can see the motif of the bull, regarded as sacred by the Neolithic communities in Anatolia as well as the Hittites.
The “Open Palace” was of the great importance for Christians for centuries.
During the early periods of Christianity, the first followers of Jesus and his apostles settled in the area to hide from the soldiers of Roman Empire. It is known that St. Paul was looking for a secure place after been expelled from Jerusalem. He came to Cappadocia and established the first Christian colony in this region with his followers.
It is also known from Bible that Apostle Paul established one of the first Christian colonies in this region with his followers.
First, they settled Petrus, Philipus, Mathaus and Jacobus, which is an evidence of how the “Open Palace” was an important setting place. For each of the apostles a separate church was built here.
St. John Church (Karsi Kilise):
The two floor church of St. Jean, found upon entering Gulsehir, houses a church, wine cellar, graves, water channels and living quarters on the lower floor, and a church decorated with Biblical scenes on the upper floor. According to the inscription on the apse, the church is dated to 1212.
The lower floor of the church built to the shape of a cross, has one apse and arms of the cross are barrel-vaulted. The central dome has collapsed. Stylised animals, geometrical and crucifix designs are used to decorate the church in red ochre applied directly onto the rock.
The upper church has one apse, and is barrel-vaulted. Apart from those on the apse, the well-preserved frescoes were covered in a layer of black soot. The church's present state is a result of the restoration and conservation done by Ridvan Isler in 1995.
Scenes from the life of Jesus and the Bible are in the form of friezes within the borders. Yellow and brown have been used on a black background. On the niche vault and on the sides, floral and geometrical patterns were used. On the west and south walls the Last Judgement can be found, a scene rarely depicted in Cappadocian churches.
Scenes of the St. Jean Church: Deesis on the apse; on its front - the Annunciation; below there are bird designs, on the barrel vault – the portraits of saints in medallions; on the south wing of the vault - the Last Supper, Betrayal by Judas, Baptism; below Koimesis (Falling Asleep of Mother Mary); on the north wings of the vault Descent from the Cross, Women at the Tomb, Anastasi’s, on the West and South walls - the Last Judgement.
REGIONS AND SITES OF CAPPADOCIA
♦ Underground City of Derinkuyu - the largest & deepest excavated subterranean city, which could house up to 20.000 people
♦ Underground City of Kaymakli - the next largest excavated subterranean city, which could house up to 5.000 people
♦ Göreme National Park & Open-air Museum - cave churches with frescoes
♦ Zelve Valley & Open-air Museum - an empty cave town with churches
♦ Paşabağ (Monk Valley) - mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys
♦ Ihlara Valley - the deepest gorge of Anatolia
♦ Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley) - animal-shaped fairy chimneys
♦ Uchisar Castle - A rock-cut castle. You’ll see it driving back and forth
♦ Ortahisar Castle - Troglodyte village with rock-cut castle
♦ Sobessos - The only late-Roman/early-Byzantine settlement found in Cappadocia, mosaic pavements, Roman baths
♦ Avanos Town - Town of pottery & craftsmanship
♦ Hacibektaş Town - Centre of Bektasi sect of Islam
♦ Gülşehir Town - First settlements in Cappadocia
♦ Caravanserais - Inns, «caravan palaces» on camel trains through Asia Minor