We traveled two hours (80 Kilometers) from Ürugüp to reach the Red Church. Kızıl Kilise (Red Church), built in the 7th century, it is the only church from the 7th century built in Cappadocia still standing. It stands at 1700 meters 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. Güzelyurt, in central Turkey, is 35 miles from Nevsehir and a short bus ride from Aksaray. It's near the Peristrema Valley, famous for its seven-mile hike through a lush valley of poplar groves, eagles, vultures, and early Christian churches. Güzelyurt means “beautiful land.” It's best known in Turkey as the town where historic enemies, Greeks, Turks, Kurds, and Bulgarians, live in peace. The town is a harmony of cultures, history, architecture, and religions. Walk down streets that residents from 3,000 years ago might recognize, past homes carved into the rocks, enjoying friendly greetings of merhaba (hello). The “Red Church” lies in a beautiful alpine meadow, a marvelous ancient anomaly in a pristine contemporary environment.
The town of Sivrihisar Giçidi lies 13 km (8.1 miles) north of the historical site of Pessinus, at the foot of a high double-peaked ridge of granite, which bears the ruins of a Byzantine castle, and gives the town its name (sivri “sharp, pointed”, hisar “fortress, castle”). According to ancient tradition, Pessinous was the principal cult centre of the cult of Cybele/Kybele. The Graeco-Phrygian Cybele is rooted in the old Anatolian goddess Koubaba whose cult spread over Anatolia during the second millennium BC. Tradition situates the cult of Cybele in the early Phrygian period (8th century BC) and associates the erection of her first “costly” temple and even the founding of the city with king Midas (738-696 BC?). However, the Phrygian past of Pessinus is still obscure, both historically as well as archaeologically.
The “Red Church” was built in the name of Saint Gregory, a founder of Orthodox Catholocism, who lived in the 4th century CE. After leaving Constantinople for Güzelyurt, he spent the last days of his life in a farm in the region. Being buried there after his death, Gregory of Nazianzus is a significant figure for Christianity. Serving as a stop and place of worship for Christian pilgrims, the “Red Church” is one of the oldest churches in Cappadocia. The church is dated to 5th-6th centuries due to its architectural features and frescoes. Large and well-cut stones were used both inside and outside the church and it was built on free-cross plan. Its name derived from the fact that stones used in the construction are coloured red. Due to the crosses above the doors and windows, it is also called “Church with Crosses”. There are three entrances to the building with the corner room in north-west. With all its features, it is similar to early Cappadocian masonry buildings. The horseshoe shaped apse has five facades. The dome is built of stone and rises on four tromps. It has a very high hoop. There are frescoes of saints inside a medallion on the apse hoop. There is a well for baptism water near the building.There is a chapel with single nave on cut-stone foundations and a pear tree 100 meters north of the church.
Many sources indicate that Saint Gregory spent his last days in a farm house near the “Red Church”. The structural remains of a “priest house” near the church is one of the foundations of this claim. In 2008, the Red Church was placed in “the List of World's 100 Most Endangered Historic Buildings” by World Monumenfs Fund. The restoration of the church started in 2011. The restoration of the dome has been completed, and the other works are in process.
Gûzelyurt, previously called Gelveri was inhabited since the Palaeolithic period and throughout history by the Hattis, Hittites, Medes, Persians and was part of the kingdoms of Cappadocia as well as the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman empires. We stopped at the Karballa hotel for a drink and the use of the facilities. The Karballa hotel is a 19th century monastery built by the Greek community for the monks of the village of Gelveri (nowadays Güzelyurt) and established as a religious school. The first building was built in 1856 and a second was added in 1913. The monastery, now classified as a national monument, was restored as a unique boutique hotel in 1985. With its columned facade, arched lobby and vaulted dining room, Karballa has a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere everyone can enjoy. Guzelyurt, located 45 km to the east of Aksaray has survived from its foundation, with some changes, to the present day. It was originally known, in the Roman and Byzantine periods, as Karaballa. In Seljuk times the name was changed to Gelveri and came under the rule of the Ottomans. The inhabitants were part of the population exchange with Greece in 1924. In the 1960′s the name was changed from gelveri to Guzelyurt and in 1989 it was made into an administrative district.
Saint Gregory: http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/gregnazi.htm