The Göreme (Gör'emi – Korama) valley is situated on the west part of a small town called Ürgüp in the province of Nev?ehir. The nearer you come to Ürgüp, the more impressed you are by the vast number of pyramids and cones, often capped by large boulders, which fall into line as far as the eye can see. In this colourful landscape, hues of pink, yellow or blue predominate according to the position of the sun.
The impression is so strange that one fancies him self to be in a dreamland. Row after row of towers spires, cones and peculiar shapes. This is the city of the fantastic. Here more than 1,000 years ago men carved out cave dwellings, and Christian churches. The incredible «cathedrals» were created by Nature's erosion and the cave dwellers who lived in them had their own stan dard of art and civilization.
The Christian Anchorites and monks settled in the area of Cappadocia, occupying the Göreme valley. It was probably these people who first realized the possibilities offered by the soft rock; they were trying to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible in their religious zeal. It was a matter of life and death at the hands of the Romans and, later, the Byzantines. The ancient name of Göreme is Korama, and it was here that Saint Hieronymus, a Christian vine grower, found refuge during a chase in a cave that had been dug out of rock. His pursuers, however, found the unfortunate fellow, dragged him out, and he was thus martyred. The monastic tradition that quickly grew up around this area is due to the influence of the Bishop of Caesarea, or Turkish Kayseri.
This was Saint Basil, who lived during the 4th century and travelled throughout Greece and Egypt.
His travels led him to believe that the life of a monk, many of which he had spoken with, especially in the deserts of Egypt, was the holiest of all ways of life.
The Göreme region of Cappadocia was the closest thing he could find near his own area to a desert, so he started bringing hermits into j the valley. The hermitages of Göreme became monasteries over the years, and during the period from the 7th to the 13th century, many of the churches seen in
Göreme were made. These were painted with religious scenes that have come to reveal an important aspect of religious art of this period. The best preserved wall paintings date from the 9th century and later because before this time many of them were destroyed and mutilated by invading Arabs and Asian peoples. During the Turkish periods, the monastic life in the region decreased in numbers of adherents, but monks still were living there until 1922.
The Formation of the fairy chimneys at Goreme
The lava that came out of Mount Erciyes during its eruptions thousands of years ago covers an area of approximately 4000 km2. After the volcano became extinct the region was exposed for centuries to extensive erosion through wind, snow and rain. In this process, owing to the peculiar composition of the soil, certains parts and ingredients dissolved or were eroded much faster leaving behind the strange shapes we call "fairy chimneys" today.
The advance of the Arab armies caused the Byzantine population of Derinkuyu to come and settle at Göreme, which was earlier called Göremi. This name was supposed to mean "you cannot see". It was then changed into Korama and then finally into Göreme. The place lies between Nev?ehir (17 km.) and Ürgüp (10 km.). St. Paul considered Göreme as the most suitable place to train missionaries. Though the name covered a larger area, now it is applied only to one valley with variety of "fairy chimneys" and rock churches, which deserve the great interest shown in them.
Göreme, which was one of the great centres of Christianity from the VI to the IX century, contains almost 400 churches. The majority of these churches are to be found at ZeJve, Mustafa Pa?a, Avc?lar, Uçhisar, Ortahisar and Çavu?in. All these villages lie very close to each other and are essentially part of Göreme. The churches in Göreme proper are Tokal? Kilise, Çar?kl? Kilise, Karanl?k Kilise, Meryem Ana Kilisesi (Church of the Virgin Mary), Elmal? Kilise, Y?lanl? Kilise and Barbara Kilisesi. The most varied range of fairy chimneys are to be seen at Zelve.