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Cappadocia Church of Saint Barbara

Church of Saint Barbara with its symbolic motifs


The Church of Saint Barbara, carved from the continuation of the same rock mass from which the Elmalı Church was carved, dates to the eleventh century. Its shape is cruciform, with two columns, three naves and a single primary apse.

Because the narthex is in ruins, one enters directly into the church, which is one of the most fasciating structures in the Göreme Valley because of its rarely seen symbolic decorations. The examples of symbolic figures and exaggerated motifs are extremely interesting. However, these decorations were not executed durig the Iconoclastic Era but were done at a later date ispired by the iconoclastic motifs. There are no churches in Göreme Open Air museum dated to the Iconoclastic Era.

The painted brick-red figures were applied directly to the rock surface. Some sources maintain that many of the symbols on the walls of this church are involved with sorcery and the the breakig of spells to ensure protection against the devil. At the left side near the entrance we see Saint Barbara holding a cross in one hand and giving a blessing with the other. Behind her are two martyrs, followed by Saint Gregory and Saint Theodoros and geometric motifs which complete the Picture. In the area above the saints there is the figure of a rooster that is pecking at something that resembles a flower, and beneath it, between two crosses, is a strange creature that has risen to its feet. Just as in mythology,the Christians believed that the rooster awoke early in the morning and chased away evil spirits, and that it was a reminder of the desire for a life of freedom. It is believed that the creature that is so difficult to identify beneath the rooster is a sybol of evil , and that i this portrayal it represent the iconolasts.

It is assumed that the cross designs above the niches known as prothesis and diakonikon on either side of the apse represent Jesus, and that the four crosses surrounding it represent the four evangelists. The trio of crosses directly above this are believed to represent either the Deisis composition of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptisr, or the Resurrection composition of Jesus, Moses and Elias. The primary dome is adorned with palm trees, which symbolize long life and immortality. The walls of the church are decorated with differant types of crosses: Byzantine, Latin and Maltese.

Cappadocia Church of Saint Barbara