Hyacinth Church

Hyacinth Church (Turkish, Sümbülllü Kilise) is a small painted church within a sprawling two-story monastery complex in Ihlara Valley. The church is located 200 meters downstream from Ağaçaltı Church, across from Snake Church.

Hyacinth Church (Ihlara), facade

Main Halls

The main rooms of the complex sit behind uncarved boulders on the lower facade. The ornate upper façade and courtyard are visually distinct on the exterior but do not correspond to any interior space.


The first hall has a flat roof with kite-shaped cross designs. Seven blind niches with red geometric designs (as in Dark Castle) line each wall. The church entrance on the left was added later. The left entrance leads to the small church. The apse on the rear wall was extended back to create another room. This second room is undecorated but contains a narrow staircase to the upper hall and courtyard.

Hyacinth Church (Ihlara), entry hall

The main hall to the right has a tall barrel-vaulted ceiling. An arcosolium was carved to the side. The lower part has eroded away but floral and geometric patterns remain painted under the arch. The grand size and fine painting indicate the prominence of the person buried here. From this hall, there are entrances to two more plain halls.


Upper Floor

The second floor of the complex features a terrace with an ornate façade. In Ihlara Valley, only Ala Kilise has a similar façade. Large decorated columns form five bays, each with a blind window or horseshoe entrance. The upper register is a blind arcade of small niches. The entire facade is uniform and exact—a stark contrast to the basic interior space. A barrel-vaulted hall is the only room in the upper hall.


Church

The small church follows an irregular design. The church has a central dome in the nave as well as two transepts with shallow side apses. The skillful painting surpasses the basic architecture.


Hyacinth Church (Ihlara), nave and apse

The shallow dome has a large, faded image of Christ Pantocrator. On the west end of the ceiling are three famous military saints: Menas, Sergios, and Bachos.


The raised apse has a thick templon barrier, unfinished furniture, and an arched window. A large hole breaks through the upper left section. Mary stands on the right, holding Christ and surrounded by Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Another angel inside a medallion occupies the conch.


The right (south) wall of the nave includes St. Theodore (near the apse), St. Tryphon (in the recessed arch), and the three Hebrew boys who survived the furnace (Dan 3). Their names are written as Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael.


The best-preserved paintings are in the right (south) arm of the church. The flat roof has a bust of King Solomon on a navy background. Domination of Mary occupies the shallow apse. The deceased Mary lies on a royal bed as the apostles watch from the side. Jesus holds her soul (the doll-like figure) and a golden angel flies overhead. The back (south) wall has Annunciation. St. Nicholas (fourth-century Bishop of Myra) and Catherine of Alexandria (martyred in 305 AD) stand under the arch. This side arm has an additional (and unexplainable) section carved towards the exit. The left arm is largely damaged.

© 2019 Jason Borges

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