Save Meryemana Kilisesi

At mid-height, Meryemana Kilisesi is buried midair in mother earth.
The trail crosses the orchard in the valley of Kiliclar, where vines bloom from their mounds of earth, and ascends 45 meters high where the valley narrows. In a quasi vertical crevice, one arrives upon a plateau through a series of waterfalls at Meryemana Kilisesi.

The church dates to the beginning of the 11th century and was discovered in 1911. The paintings were protected due to its location and recent discovery, and in 1976, the open air museum of Göreme was closed for visits to prevent any risk of collapse.

The church’s architecture amazes, with two parallel vaults atop the nave that join on a communal support that appears to rest on nothing. The church feels very light, as if suspended over sumptuous arabesque paintings on the vaults. As built architecture, this audacity would have already crumbled. As hollowed out architecture, this form has been suspended for 1000 years. On the nave’s large vault, the décor presents four scenes that place the Virgin Mary at the center. Depicted on the nave’s small vault are two rows of martyrs that face each other. Female saints in orantes radiate the hallway that separates the nave from the absidal rooms. The simplicity of the decorative program breaks away from the columned churches that present in detail and narrative, the liturgical calendar. The visual program during meditations on the dolor and joys of Mary unfolds over time in the church.

Although this is an exceptional church that has endured over time, it is in need of urgent attention to address its condition. A large fissure traverses the church, and water infiltration from a nearby stream and rain has collected 1 meter deep under the floor. The association in charge of the preservation of this church, “les amis de Cappadoce,” propose to stop erosion by diverting the water through a tunnel and to block the base of the cliff with an embankment more than 20 meters high. WMF has sent its experts on two missions to examine the church and meet with Turkish authorities and the delegates of the association “les amis de la Cappadoce.” WMF proposes to host an international colloquium on how to address the condition of the church and prevent further damage.

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