Dereyamanlı (Avanos)

Dereyamanlı Church is a spacious cave church outside of Avanos with nine large carved crosses. The size, design, and location of the relief carvings are unmatched in Cappadocia.

Dereyamanlı (Avanos), nave and apse

This is the only cave church in Cappadocia where people can conduct a worship service. The city of Avanos has furnished the interior with benches to accommodate small worship gatherings. The gate is always locked. You must get the key from the Avanos Mayor’s Office (Turkish, belediye) for a recommended donation of 100 Turkish lira.


Dereyamanlı Church overlooks Avanos from an isolated plateau. The church is 600 meters southwest of the Double Tree Hilton hotel in Avanos. You can drive straight to the church on a thin cobblestone road. The location is correct on Google Maps (though misnamed Meryem Ana Kilisesi).


The Church


The narthex (entrance room) is excessively large, almost the size of the nave. The trapezoidal entrance room had fine wall carvings, but the accumulation of dirt destroyed the lower sections. The room has corner pilasters and an arched window. The three diamond-shaped relief carvings had crosses in the center, but only their outline has survived.

Dereyamanlı (Avanos), narthex

The spacious single nave measures 7.5 by 5.5 meters. Modern renovations have raised the nave’s floor. A small bench lined the left (north) side. The triangle niches atop the rear wall have no obvious purpose, but they do match the style of Pancarlık Kilise (Ürgüp). The church was never painted, not even with red geometric designs.


The three stone crosses on the left (north) wall are the most prominent features of the church.

Dereyamanlı (Avanos), 3 relief crosses

The largest cross stands like a column on a square base. The Roman cross has a large circle in the center, and four small circles on each arm. An arch with etched leaves surmounts the top of the cross.

  • To the right is a large pilaster (half column) under a Maltese cross cut in deep relief. This cross is remarkably small compared to the other carved features.

  • Nearby on the front wall is another cross. The lollipop-shaped design starts halfway up the wall. A thin pole leads to a deep circle relief with a decorated Maltese cross. The destroyed right wall likely had a mirror relief.

The size and design of the crosses are unique from one another. No other cave church in Cappadocia has such designs.


The large apse matches the spacious nave. A tall synthronon bench lines the back wall. There is no sign of a central chair or altar. The entrance to the apse had no templon wall. Rather, a single large arch extended from the side walls and covered the step to the apse. The lower remains of the arch are visible on each side.


Three more crosses—each with its own unique design—appear on the upper wall of the apse. Their individual carvings are ornate, but their collective layout is not symmetrical, perhaps to accommodate the large apse window. Among the crosses is a carved column with a triangular base and capital. The diamond pattern on the shaft is unlike any real column. The meaning of this column is unclear, especially because nothing sits atop the column.


The roof of the church is slightly domed, but this is the result of erosion. The original roof was flat. Over time, the softer layer of rock above had slowly crumbled. The roof likely had carved crosses, too (like Red Valley churches), but they have fallen away. The rock into which the rooms were carved is noticeably harder. Each rock layer represents a different volcanic eruption from nearby Mt. Ergiyes. The layers extend through the entire bluff outside.


Dereyamanlı (Avanos), facade

The church was used later for agricultural purposes. Animal troughs were carved into the benches in the nave and apse. Catholics remodeled the cave church in the early 2000s to host regular church services, but they no longer use the space. Today the Avanos Municipality (Avanos Belediyesi) manages the space for all Christians.

© 2019 Jason Borges

photo credits

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