Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley

Location of Ihlara within Turkey.

Location of Ihlara within Turkey.

Country  Turkey
Region Central Anatolia
Province Aksaray
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 68x xx
Licence plate 68
Website www.ihlara.bel.tr

Ihlara is a township with own municipality in Aksaray ProvinceCentral AnatoliaTurkey. It is situated at about 40 km (25 mi) from the province seat of Aksaray and near the town of Güzelyurt. The township is famed for the nearby valley of the same name, Ihlara Valley, which is a 16 km (10 mi) long gorge cut into volcanic rock in the southern part of Cappadocia, following several eruptions of Mount Erciyes. The Melendiz Streamflows through the valley.

What makes the valley unique is the ancient history of its inhabitants. The whole canyon is honeycombed with rock-cut underground dwellings and churches from the Byzantine period built by the Cappadocian Greeks. These local people were forced to leave the area and move to Greece in the 1923 Population exchange between Turkey and Greece.[1][2]

Due the valley’s plentiful supply of water and hidden places, here was the first settlement of the first Christians escaping from Roman soldiers. In the Ihlara Valley there are hundreds of old churches in the volcanic rock caves. The most known churches are Ağaçaltı Church with cross plan, Sümbüllü Church, Pürenliseki Church, Kokar Church, Yilanli Church, Karagedik Church, Kirkdamatli Church, Direkli Church, Ala Church, Kemerli Church and Egritas Church.

The Ihlara Valley as it ends near Güzelyurt.

  1. Darke, Diana (2011). Eastern Turkey. Bradt Travel Guides. pp. 139–140. ISBN 978-1-84162-339-9The area became an important frontier province during the 7th century when Arab raids on the Byzantine Empire began. By now the soft tufa had been tunneled and chambered to provide underground cities where a settled if cautious life could continue during difficult times. When the Byzantines re-established secure control between the 7th and 11th centuries, the troglodyte population surfaced, now carving their churches into rock faces and cliffs in the Goreme and Sogamli areas, giving Cappadocia its fame today. […] At any rate here they flourished, their churches remarkable for being cut into the rock, but interesting especially for their paintings, relatively well preserved, rich in coloring, and with an emotional intensity lacking in the formalism of Constantinople; this is one of the few places where paintings from the pre-iconoclastic period have survived. Icons continued to be painted after the Seljuk conquest of the area in the 11th century, and the Ottoman conquest did not interfere with the Christian practices in Cappadocia, where the countryside remained largely Greek, with some Armenians. But decline set in and Goreme, Ihlara and Soganli lost their early importance. The Greeks finally ending their long history here with the mass exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in 1923.
  2. Rodley, Lyn (2010). Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-521-15477-2The tenth-century historian Leo the Deacon records a journey to Cappadocia made by Nikephoros Phokas shortly before he became emperor. Perhaps to recapture the attention of readers beginning to tire of troop movements he also offers a scrap of information about a curiosity of the region to which the emperor was heading: its inhabitants were once called troglodytes, because ‘they went underground in holes, clefts and labyrinths, as it were in dens and burrows’. This brief note was probably not based on first-hand knowledge but it might have been prompted by an awareness of the vast number of rock-cut cavities in an area to the west and southwest of Kaisareia (Kayseri of modern Turkey). Had Leo been more inclined to garrulous digression (or perhaps just better informed), he might have supplied more details of the troglodyte region and the task of bringing scholarly order to the hundreds of rock-cut monuments and other cavities in the area might have been much similar. … At this time the region was still inhabited by a mixed population of Turkish-speaking Moslems and Greek-speaking Christians. The latter group left for Greece in the early 1920s, during an exchange of population of minorities that was part of the radical social re-ordering initiated by Kemal Ataturk; they were replaced by Turks from Greece, mostly from Thrace. In the two decades before this upheaval, however, members of the local Greek population acted as guides to Guillaume de Jerphanion, who made several visits to the volcanic valleys and wrote his meticulous descriptions of many painted Byzantine rock-cut churches.
The volcanic eruption of Hasandagi led to tectonic movements that left the surface of the region covered  with a layer of volcanic rock. The same volcanic activity led to pressure and heat being put upon the limestone causing it to crack and create naturally spouting springs of hot water, these can be seen at the Ziga Thermal Springsbetween Ihlara and Yaprakhisar. The structural characteristics of the region due to volcanic eruption produced tufa outcrops which were moulded by wind, erosion and other natural phenomena and created the
strange and colorful Fairy Chimneys that are also encountered at Selime and Yaprakhisar. The tectonic movoments produced tufa rock that in some places is soft and in others is coloured grey, green and brown. Huge areas of crumbling rock completely covered the area in its debris. The Ihlara valley alogside the Melendiz River is a result of this disintegration that created a canyon with a deep base. The fast flowing river is in places between 100 and 200 m deep and it divides the valley into two; it continues towards Aksaray with the name Ulunmak until reaches Tuz Golu (Salt Lake).
Aksaray Province of Cappadocia region was an important religious centre in Christianity’s very earliest days. Founders of orders like Basilof kayseri and Greegory of Nazianos lived here in the 4th century. A different set of monastic rules than the system used in Egypt ad Syria was determined here. Although the monks in Egypt and Syria cut themselves off from relationships with the wordly things the monks under Basil and Gregory did not. The birthplace for this concept was Belisirma. Gregory, offering a new explanation for the Holy Trinity, brought about a debate concering the divinity of Christ. His ideas prevailed at the Council of Iznik. Thus an innovator became a saint for the the rock region of Belisirma, Ihlara and Gelveri where Gregory lived. With the defensive castles of Mount Hasan providing defence against Arab invasions the churces were able to continue in peaceful worship.
The Ihlara Valley has protected these rock-cut dwellings ad churhes with frescoes and they come down to us a unique historical treasury. These frescoed churches and dwellings easily carved into rock from the early years of Christianity are scattered all along the way from Ihlara to Selime through the Ihlara valley.
Ihlara valley has been formed at an approximate depth of 150 due that the erosion made by Melendiz river coming from the mountains of Melendiz to the volcanic rocks. Due that the richness of the watering possibility and its hidden form and easily to hide structure it was the first settlement place of the first Christians escaping from the Roman soldiers In the Ihlara Valley there are hundreds of antic churches caved in the volcanic rocks. The most known Ihlara valley churches are Agacalti Church with cross plan, Sümbüllü Church, Pürenliseki Church, Kokar Church, Yilanli Church, Karagedik Church, Kirkdamatli Church, Direkli Church, Ala Church, Kemerli Church and Egritas Church.

How can you go: You can go to Ihlara valley from Aksaray province 40 km. Aksaray is 674 km. far from Istanbul, 225 km. from Ankara, 693 km. from Izmir.


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