PAT – Seeking the secret church II

Seeking the secret church IIHaving been thwarted in our first attempt to visit Gremeand#39s SaklI Kilise (Hidden Church), a friend and I tried again last Monday morning, feeling quietly confident that this time we would do better We had, you see, made a date with the key-holder, which hopefully meant that success was guaranteed.Things did not get off to a particularly swinging start when the key-holderand#39s brindled bitch took one look at my friendand#39s much smaller, more sheep-like dog and flew at him from her shady spot beneath a bench like the proverbial bat out of hell.

Luckily I had the same big handbag with me that had come in so handy a few months earlier when Iand#39d used it to beat off the frenzied dog that had just bitten me in Gulhane Park. Fortunately this was a far less determined assault and the bitch slunk off back to the shade again as both dog owners remonstrated with their animals.

The key-holder walked a little way along a ridge of rock behind the shelter with us, then handed the key over to us in an act of much-appreciated trust. His directions were clear With only one brief false turn, we were soon descending the concealed steps that led to an even more concealed entrance.

In we stepped and, boy, was it worth the second trip.Itand#39s not hard to see why the SaklI Kilise is kept locked.

Like most of Cappadociaand#39s frescoed churches itand#39s too small to accommodate many visitors comfortably. More to the point, though, you have only to look up at the ceiling to see how layers of rock have peeled away like the coatings of an onion bringing down with them the frescoes that once covered it.

Given the way in which my own house sheds bits of rock on a daily basis itand#39s hardly surprising that this should have happened. The Cappadocian landscape is, after all, the product of erosion, an erosion that hasnand#39t come to a convenient halt just because it would suit the tourism industry to have all the churches accessible.

No matter Both of us had lived here long enough to have adopted a very local devil-may-care attitude to the risk of rockfall. Sure, I remember the odd night when I dozed off to sleep while wondering if the large fairy chimney behind my house would slip down the hill in the night and take my house with it, but that was during the period when the houses attached to it were being converted into a hotel, which necessitated a lot of rather alarming drilling.

Now that the work is complete I never give the risk a secondand#39s thought.My friend cast her expert eye over the frescoes and gave me a quick rundown of what was what.

The artist had favored a limited palette of shades of orange, but there were some fine-painted details, especially of the apostles attending the Dormition of the Virgin, each wearing a different hairstyle. I was particularly taken, too, with the crib in which the baby Jesus lay.

It looked as if a typically Gremeli wooden cradle had been drawn and details of Byzantine ornamentation added on top.My friend pointed out what looked like atypical attempts to add a Cappadocian-style rocky landscape to the background of several images.

Given the spectacular view towards Uhisar that greeted us when we stepped outside again, perhaps that shouldnand#39t have come as much of a surprise.Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Greme, Cappadocia.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman