Sky (Gök) Church

Sky Church (Turkish, Gök Kilise) is a double-nave cave church with external burial niches in Soğanlı Valley. This church, built around 900 AD, has detailed architecture.

Sky Church (Soğanlı), facade

It is located opposite Buckle Church, 1 km before the entrance gate to Soğanlı Valley. From the steps of Buckle, walk upstream (north) for 30 m. Then you can easily cross the stream to Sky Church.


Outside Rooms


The church is halfway up a stand-alone fairy chimney. The front of the cone has fallen away, exposing the natural red. This occurred long before the church’s construction, as the new red face has two niches and a triple-recessed, arch-covered entrance to the church.


The two acrosolia (arched recesses) on the church wall, one large and one small, were for special burials. Christians in Soğanlı Valley carved many external burial chambers, especially around Geyikli Monastery and Kubbeli Church.

Another fairy chimney in front of the entrance has a cooking area. The recessed square entrance leads to a kitchen with a wine press, floor tandir, and shelves. More rooms around the church are visible, but not accessible.

Sky Church (Soğanlı), cooking room

Church Architecture


The church has no narthex (entrance room). Therefore, you enter through a formal entrance directly into the back corner of the nave.


Sky Church (Soğanlı), nave and apse

The church has two small aisles, divided by an arcade with four slender archways. The shafts of the three pillars are different shapes—square, circle, and octagon. Three key-shaped niches line the side walls. The barrel vault springs from a simple cornice. A solitary grave lies in the back corner.


Both apses have a double-step, high templon, attached (now-broken) altar, and one seat. Both apses are broken, and the right apse remains open.


Paintings


Paintings remain only in the left (north) nave. The apse has parts of Christ in Glory—Jesus’ cruciform halo, seraphim, and a mandorla.


The narrative scene starts at the right side—the Annunciations of Joseph and Mary, a standing angel, the Visitation, and Proof of Virginity (priest holding a chalice to Mary). Painted architecture is in the background of each scene. The people stand inside a building with an arched doorway and three spires.

The rear lunette (upper wall) is the Flight to Egypt; only the donkey’s hooves remain.


Sky Church (Soğanlı), north vault with Visitation

The Nativity appears over the doorway. Jesus is at the top left, Mary lies diagonally, and the Bathing of Jesus is at the bottom right. The remaining images are washed out, but likely included the Presentation, Crucifixion, and/or Resurrection.

Conclusion


This church is quaint and pleasant to explore, though not Soğanlı Valley’s most impressive. Sky Church is worth a visit if you have extra time. Saklı Church is comparable in shape, but has better paintings and is near other notable churches.


Sky Church (Soğanlı), entrance

© 2019 Jason Borges

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