Zindanönü Church

Zindanönü Church is a small single-nave chapel in the middle of Red Valley. The simple church is set inside an iconic, towering volcanic cone.

Zindanönü Church, facade

The rectangular entrance has a small arched porch set on stout columns. The vertical rock face was smoothened around the doorway, creating the appearance of formal architecture. Two arcosolia graves flank the doorway. The entrance was originally at ground level, but the small creek has lowered the valley floor about four meters, as seen in the lower portion of the volcanic cone. A tunnel on the north side provides easy access, breaking into the apse.

The nave measures about three by two meters. The flat ceiling has a thin Roman cross, painted with small Maltese crosses in the center and at the ends. Benches line both lateral walls. The doorway, raised one step, has notches to support a wooden door hanger. A framed prothesis niche appears near the apse. A dedicatory inscription, painted in red letters, once ran below the ceiling.

Zindanönü Church, nave

The interior contains two painting styles. The original carver highlighted the architectural features with simple red geometric patterns. At the corners of the side walls are encircled Maltese crosses. A sawtooth triangle pattern lines the apse arch.

Later, someone painted two panel icons on plaster. A red border frames the two standing saints, who are poorly painted and poorly preserved. Next to the apse, the holy doctor (likely a local healer) holds a medical box and instrument. The other figure is an elegantly dressed woman with her hands raised in prayer. The white letters to her right are the prayer of invocation. The letters “O AΓIA CIO…” (Saint Zio[n]…) suggest that she embodies the holy city of Jerusalem.

A small framed arch and destroyed templon barrier lead to the sanctuary, which is raised two steps. The apse has an attached altar with a small arched niche and two shallow arched seats on each side.

This church was apparently a small funeral chapel for the two people buried on the façade. Such a ceiling cross, though basic and only painted, usually indicates a sixth-century date. However, the two painted panels reflect an eleventh-century style. Because the dedicatory inscription is unreadable, we know little else about the church.

© 2019 Jason Borges

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