Karanlık Kilise (The Dark Church) in Göreme. PHOTO: Grizurgbg via Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

Christ Pantokrator in the central dome of Karanlık Kilise (The Dark Church) in Göreme. PHOTO: Grizurgbg via Wikimedia Commons, CC license.

Three chapels in the Göreme area make up a group known as the Column Churches: Karanlık Kilise (The Dark Church), Çariklı Kilise (The Sandal Church), and Elmalı Kilise (The Apple Church). All of them are cross-in-square plans and are decorated with floor-to-ceiling wall paintings in a similar style. The most commonly accepted date for the frescoes is Jerphanion’s mid-11th century chronology, just slightly earlier than the Yılanlı Group (Rodley 182).

The group’s characteristic paintings are figural narrative scenes. Figures have dark outlines, particularly on their faces and heads, and “combed highlighting” on draped clothing (Cooper and Decker 133). The backgrounds of these wall paintings are a distinctive grey-blue. The central dome of each church is decorated with an image of Christ Pantokrator (Epstein, Art of Empire 48).

Churches in the Column Group:
Göreme Chapel 23, Karanlık Kilise (The Dark Church)
Göreme Chapel 22, Çariklı Kilise (The Sandal Church)
Göreme Chapel 19, Elmalı Kilise (The Apple Church)

Cooper, J. Eric, and Michael J. Decker. Life and Society in Byzantine Cappadocia. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012

Epstein, Ann Wharton. “Rock-Cut Chapels in Göreme Valley, Cappadocia: The Yılanlı Group and the Column Churches.” Cahiers Archéologiques 24 (1975): 115–135.

———. “The Fresco Decoration of the Column Churches, Göreme Valley, Cappadocia: a Consideration of Their Chronology and Their Models.” Cahiers Archéologiques 29 (1981 1980): 27–45.

Jerphanion, Guillaume de. Une Nouvelle Province De L’art: Les Eglises Rupestres De Cappadoce. 7 vols. Paris: P. Geuthner, 1925.

Rodley, Lyn. Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia. Orig. pub. 1985. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Wharton, Annabel Jane. Art of Empire: Painting and Architecture of the Byzantine Periphery: A Comparative Sudy of Four Provinces. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988.

Suggested citation for this page
McMichael, A.L. “The Column Churches.” Documenting Cappadocia. http://documentingcappadocia.newmedialab.cuny.edu/column-churches/ (date accessed).