The region of Cappadocia in present-day central Turkey alludes to a fantastical realm with giant upright rock formations pockmarked by evidences of human habitation, ranging from houses to chapels. Well this time around, archaeologists have been able to decipher a structural scope pertaining to the latter. We are talking about an entire church that was probably built during 5th century AD, in the Cappadocian town of Nevşehir. But beyond just its subterranean credentials, the researchers are actually impressed by the sheer size of the underground structure – which is claimed (by the town’s mayor Hasan Ünver) to be bigger than other historical churches in the area.
Now intriguingly enough, this church was a part of a huge underground city that was discovered in 2014. The multi-leveled subterranean settlement with extensive tunnel systems, probably housed around 20,000 people in its heydays during the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) period. And going by the contemporary religious affiliation in the Anatolian region (circa 5th century AD), the church confirms its Eastern Orthodox denomination. This is also supported by the profusion of frescoes deciphered by the archaeologists, many of which portray Jesus Christ in Ascension and the elimination of damned ‘bad souls’ up in heaven. As Hasan Ünver said (to Hurriyet Daily News) –
We didn’t even think of finding such a structure when we first started works. But excavations and cleaning work are continuing and we hope to find new data relating to the history of Cappadocia. It is reported that some of the frescoes here are unique. There are exciting depictions like fish falling from the hand of Jesus Christ, him rising up into the sky, and the bad souls being killed. When the church is completely revealed, Cappadocia could become an even bigger pilgrimage center of Orthodoxy.
Lastly, as of now, the archaeologists are working hard to clean up and then refurbish the expansive interiors of this underground Byzantine church. Most of the restoration works are expected to commence from spring of this year after the humidity is mitigated and the frescoes are ‘revived’. And the interesting part is, the researchers are looking forth to discover even more frescoes within the vicinity of the church. As participating archaeologist Ali Aydın, said –
Only a few of the paintings have been revealed. Others will emerge when the earth is removed. There are important paintings in the front part of the church showing the crucifixion of Jesus and his ascension to heaven. There are also frescoes showing the apostles, the saints and other prophets Moses and Elyesa.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News