Among the churches in the rock of Göreme, the richest in paintings is the church known as Tokali Kilise. Its name comes from a decoration on one of its two arches which has since disappeared.
Built probably between the IX and X centuries, its interior is divided into two distinct areas: the front part is called the Old Church; whereas the other area, distinguished by its four columns on the front and three apsidal recesses, apart from a side room, is called the New Church. About thirty years later, the frescoes in the New Church were painted on the barrel vaults and in the apsidal bowl -shaped vault by an artist called Nikephoros. The scenes represent the life of Christ.
This cave church was built in about 1050 and, despite Muslims flocking into the area, it reveals close ties with Byzantine architecture in its structures and frescoes: Its name probably refers to an apple tree that grew in the vicinity. The frescoes that still exist are painted on a coat of plaster on top of pre- existing geometric designs, which were recently attributed to the post – Iconoclastic XI century.
The so-called Karanlik Kilise, (Dark Church) was in fact a real monastic complex. Like other monastic retreats in Göreme, the Dark Church was also built during the XI century. Unfortunately, part of its narthex or vestibule collapsed, leaving it open to the sky. The wall at the bottom of the narthex bears a severely damaged fresco with Christ’s Ascension and the Benediction of the Saints, whereas the other scenes are only partially legible; more so to the left, where the wall collapsed. The church’s name is fully justified: in fact, a small oculus looking out of the narthex is the only source of light; however, there was even less light in the past centuries, when the narthex was not short of a wall. The scenes depicted in the church represent episodes from the New Testament.
The Church of the Sandal was also originally a monastic complex. Its appearance has since changed: the facade of the rock face has collapsed, exposing the rooms above the sky. Originally, the niches housed decorations in the shape of the Greek cross. The name of the church comes from an imprint on the floor said to be a cast of Jesus’ own footstep. The three benefactors of the complex are portrayed in the frescoes of the church, and indicated by the names of Theognotos, Michael and Leon. The holy paintings narrate 13 episodes from the Life of Christ.
One can literally step inside the Church of St. Barbara. Its plan was similar to the Church of the Sandal. It was built in the late Eleventh Century A.D., and financed by benefactors whose names are recalled in a broken inscription: the priest Falibon and Leon Marulinus. The simplicity of the building is enhanced by its paintings which consists mainly of red lines forming geometric designs. Other linear painting are accompanied by frescoes painted on top of a coat of plaster, which are usually figurative: apart from St Barbara, after whom the church is named, the apse contains Christ on the Throne, whereas the north wall portrays St. George and St Theodore on horse-back struggling against the dragon and snake.
The Yilanli Kilise is surrounded by several rooms in the rock, including the refectory which is adjacent to the church, and several others above. The church itself is a long, narrow room divided into two different sections. Immediately after the entrance, the left wall bears a niche. To the right of the entrance, the upper part of the vault portrays three saints, including St Thomas and an interesting St Onofrio in the nude. However local legend has it that St Onofrio originally belonged to the female sex, but that God made her into a man to keep her away from sin.
El Nazar Kilise
This church which dates back to the XI century, is hewn out of an isolated tufa pinnacle. Part of the front collapsed, leaving some of the inside rooms open to the sky. Above the two floors of rooms stood the church itself, built in a T-shape with strong pillars supporting the vaults. The ceiling was partly barrel vault and partly dome. The precious paintings are in panels on the vaults, with various religious scenes and images of saints. This monastery stands a couple of hundred meters from the complex of Göreme.