Kızıl Kilise - The Red Church

Kızıl Kilise (the red church), built in the 7th century, is the only church from the 7th century built in Cappadocia still standing. It stands at 1700 meter at the bottom of a large basin, facing the mountains of Melendiz which are covered in snow in the winter, and at the edge of an ancient pilgrimage route to Jerusalem. It is considered to be built in honor of Saint Gregory of Nazianze, one of the three fathers of the Church of Cappadocia, and is named after the color of the volcanic stone it is constructed of.

Kızıl Kilise is one of the oldest churches known to have a cupola on a drum with windows that illuminate the interior, which is incredibly innovative for its time. The presence of horizontal vents that divert the immense weight of the lintels surmounted on the entrances also confirms the innovation and competence of its architect. It is a prestigious church, most likely desired by the Emperor Justinian. With the exception of the narthex, which is most likely a posterior addition, Kızıl Kilise was never modified. The cupola and the drum are still present in their original state, albeit damaged by rain and snow where immediate protection from the next snowfall is needed. Since 2002, “Les amis de Cappadoce” made it its priority to save Kızıl Kilise. An architecture professor from the University of Yıldiz Istanbul joined them to obtain necessary authorization to study the church. Upon the request by the Turkish authorities in 2007, the professor, assisted by the Aksaray museum, began archaeological digs in the church and its surroundings. A chapel, thought to be from the 4th century, was discovered, as well as the vestiges of a small village or garrison town. In 2009, the proposed restoration project was approved by the administration of Konya, and the professor was requested to manage the project. The restoration of the cupola will begin once funding is available. Since 2003, “Les amis de la Cappadoce” opened a fund for Action to Protect and augmented visits to the site. WMF’s support guarantees the excellent quality of the restoration project.

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