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Cross Church

Cross Church (Turkish, Haçlı Kilise) is a basilica-style cave church outside of Mustafapaşa. This church is set 75 meters northwest of Holy Cross Church, just down from the open parking area.

Cross Church, nave with apse and north aisle

The church sits in a network of carved rooms at multiple levels. Two narthex rooms with burial graves precede the nave. Two rooms off the southwest corner were monks’ cells. The larger one, accessed directly from the narthex, has a square interior, arched bed, and two wall niches. A window next to the door provided a visual sightline into the church. In the other round space, a window breaks through the corner of the church, where the rock was left protruding.

The hillside has eroded, so the western ceiling is open. The central aisle has a barrel vault, which springs from a small cornice above the basket arches. The sanctuary rises three steps, through the low templon screens with prominent Maltese crosses cut in relief. Behind the detached altar, an arched recess functions as the bishop’s chair (cathedra). The raised seat elevates the bishop close to Christ (once painted in the conch above). To the north, a Maltese cross surmounts a broad prothesis niche. Thin arched doorways lead to the side apses (similar to the main church at Holy Cross Church).

The side sanctuaries, each with two bays, extend back deeper than the central apse. The north (left) sanctuary is larger and deeper. A basket arch and step transitions to the initial bay, which has arched niches, side benches, and a large Maltese relief cross on the flat ceiling. The rounded apse has an attached altar and large side niche. The south (right) sanctuary follows the same pattern but is small and less furnished. A niched water basin was carved in the southwest corner.

Cross Church, apse and south sanctuary

Although the three aisles have distinctive apses and ceilings, they share a common floor area. A deep bench lines the entire nave, and six floor graves fill the northwest corner.

Because of its unique features, this church is challenging to date, especially because no inscriptions or paintings have survived. The irregularly-deep side apses are hard to interpret, as they have no comparison in Cappadocia. The ceiling cross (north apse) and basilica-like floor plan characterize sixth-century churches. Nearby, the main aisle of the Holy Cross Church repurposed stones from a prior sixth-century church, indicating that churches were constructed in this area at that time.


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