Zelve Church 6

Zelve Church 6 is a square church with magnificent crosses carved onto the ceiling and side walls. Locals have nicknamed this church Putlu Kilise (Church with an Idol), seemingly because of the large idolized crosses, for which the church is also called Haçlı Kilise (Church with a Cross).

Zelve Church 6, facade

The church lies outside the official museum. As one approaches the Zelve Open Air Museum, a series of shops line the road just before the parking lot. The church is located immediately behind the shops on the left side, here on Google Maps. It is always open, though the steep ramp to the entrance can be difficult to scale. The church stands halfway up an isolated fairy chimney. The arched porch church has eroded away, though two etched crosses remain above the door. Inside the square nave (3 meters by 3 meters), a bench lines three walls. Four small graves for children were later cut into the benches. The deep apse opens through a framed arch with two steps and a thick templon screen. The back wall has eroded into a large opening. Side benches suggest that the original design involved a rear throne chair and a detached altar. The church’s defining feature is the sculpted decoration. To create a finished look, the builders smoothed out the tool marks on the ceiling (but not on the side walls).

A prominent Roman cross on the flat ceiling overlooks the nave. A slim indentation highlights its edges. Small encircled Maltese crosses occupy each arm and the intersection. An arch surmounts this Roman cross, then merges with the broad frame. Smaller crosses fill the four quadrants. The top half contains two recessed Maltese crosses framed with a triple ring. The lower half features arched Roman crosses on tall, triangular pedestals. This, in effect, lifts/exalts the sacred image. The original builder highlighted the crosses with red ochre paint.


Zelve Church 6, ceiling

The north wall contains a bizarre medley of carved crosses. Despite their individual aesthetics, they appear haphazardly around the wall (compared to the orderly wall design of Zelve Church 1). A large arcosolia was added later, between two encircled Maltese crosses. The large cross on the right has a triple-ring frame. The prothesis niche toward the apse—deep and arched in shape—has another Maltese cross carved into the back wall. A horseshoe-framed Roman cross stands above. The distinctive square niche held a candle lamp.

Zelve Church 6, north wall

The south wall has only one medallion cross, which mirrors the main cross on the opposite wall. The church was plastered around AD 900, though much of the painted decoration has deteriorated. The only remaining painting, left of the relief cross, is a faint red rose, likely with St. George. Another church (named Zelve Church 6a) appears 5 meters south. A small, raised arcosolia appears on the rock face between the separate entrance. This inaccessible church is much smaller and undecorated. Its features are similar to those of Zelve Church 7. A shallow barrel vault covers the square nave. A molded apse arch leads to the barrel-vaulted sanctuary, which has a distinctly flat and framed back wall. Large arched recesses (perhaps arcosolia graves) occupy both side walls.

Zelve Church 6a nave

© 2019 Jason Borges

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