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St. Basil's Church (Uçhisar)

The Church of St. Basil is a peculiar sixth-century basilica church inside a tall volcanic cone near Uçhisar.

St. Basil's (Uçhisar), isolated cone

This is the only preserved cave church in Uçhisar and is very difficult to find. The church is located 50 meters downhill from the hotel Les Maisons de Cappadoce, here on Google Maps. The cone has rooms on five floors, and the church is on the middle level, accessed by a narrow path.

Like the other three-aisled cave churches in Cappadocia (i.e., St. John’s in Çavuşin, Durmuş Kadir in Göreme, and Belha Monastery in Özkonak), St. Basil’s Church in Uçhisar is relatively large (7.5 meters wide, 6.5 meters deep) and dates to the 500s.

Because it is a basilica plan, the nave has three aisles. However, instead of a raised barrel vault over the central aisle, St. Basil Church has a flat roof covering all three aisles. This parallels St. John the Baptist Church in Çavuşin—the only other three-aisled church with a single-level flat roof. However, the unique arches at St. Basil Church create the appearance of an upper gallery, as though the central aisle were taller and had upper windows.

Two prominent arcades shape and define the church. On each side of the central aisle, three stout columns follow a Doric pattern, with flattened faces and a central bulge. Raised above a two-step base and ending at mid-level, the columns are short. Above each, a second short pillar supports the arches, which are precise and framed. The lunettes encircled Maltese crosses set on pedestals (like Avanos’ Dereyamanlı Church). Slabs of rock, left in place by the carvers, connect the upper pillars. Amazingly, six of the eight slabs remain suspended. The concentric rectangular recesses reflect Syrian decorative styles. The raised wall creates upper windows lining the central aisle.

St. Basil's Church (Uçhisar), side arcade

In the flat ceiling, an arched Roman cross is cut from the living rock—another characteristic of sixth-century churches. The large relief carving is shallow, perhaps thinned by natural erosion. Encircled Maltese crosses dot each point of the cross, and palm trees (leaves?) fill each quadrant. Because of poor lighting and heavy soot, the elements are hardly visible.

The two side aisles differ significantly. The north aisle has tall niches, each with a low bench. The tall, shallow north apse has an attached altar. With only a bench, but no side niches or apse, the south aisle was never completed. The rough south wall was carved out by a laborer but never finished by the master builder.

St. Basil's Church (Uçhisar), north aisle and apse

The central apse rises three steps through a thick templon barrier. It had a central altar and a recessed seat. The entire apse arch was plastered, but only the low templon walls were painted. On each side, floral designs edge the central crosses. The church has no other paintings. The arches of both apses have notches to support iconostasis screens. The small area on the north side of the east wall held an icon.

St. Basil's (Uchisar), narthex porch

The barrel-vaulted narthex has four floor graves and one arcosolium, all for infants. The narthex is deteriorated just after the ceiling becomes flat, so now the church is accessed only through the side tunnel.

Farmers in the Ottoman era converted this church into a pigeon house. They bricked up the short door and cut new entry points into each wall.


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