Wednesday, July 25, 2012


As a follow up to Monday’s post about Kayaköy, I wanted to devote another post solely to the abandoned churches left standing here.

In this “ghost town” near Fethiye, there are two Greek Orthodox Churches that date back to the 17th Century. After buying your 8 TL admission ticket, first you will approach the large-domed Lower Church (Aşağı Kilise).
The Lower Church (Aşağı Kilise) of Kayaköy.
It is possible to walk around and inside of the lower church, which features an inscription of 1888, which is believed to indicate the last time the church was restored.

Inside the church, parts of the walls are painted a Robin’s eggshell blue, and you can see some religious frescoes and stone carvings if you look up.
Once upon a time, this was a beautiful church in Turkey.
Religious frescoes inside the Lower Church (Aşağı Kilise) of Kayaköy.
Floor mosiac inside the church.
Behind the lower church, you will find an eerie surprise at the bottom of an old stone cellar – human bones! Well, if you’re curious like we are, you must look down the hole to see what’s inside.
Eerie! An old bone depository behind the Lower Church (Aşağı Kilise) of Kayaköy.
According to the posted sign in Turkish, English and German, the bones were kept in this cellar when the graves needed to be reused. The locals washed the bones in wine and left them to air-dry. An odd custom! We hope they saved the good wine for drinking at least.

I climbed up a stone wall to capture this view of the Lower Church in Kayaköy.
If you trek up the hill from the lower church about 20 minutes, you will find a non-descript little chapel perched above the hilltop. You’ll also be rewarded with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea and the valley, which is what we did.

We could see another whitewashed chapel in the distance, but you had to hike up a much larger hill, filled with a dense forest. We didn’t have the time.

Later, after wandering through the crumbling houses of Kayaköy, we stopped at the High Church (Yukarı Kilise). The churches were aptly named because of their relative elevation difference to each other.
The courtyard outside of the High Church (Yukarı Kilise) of Kayaköy. 

The High Church, unfortunately, looks like it has been stripped of much of its former beauty, especially when compared to the Lower Church. 
Inside the High Church (Yukarı Kilise) of Kayaköy.
Still, it’s worth a look to visit an old church that probably saw hundreds of baptisms, first communions, weddings and funerals in the past.

Are there other churches you recommend seeing in Turkey?

Other places I’ve seen churches in Turkey:
View of the surrounding countryside from the High Church in Kayaköy.

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10 comments:

jaz@octoberfarm said...

spooky but beautiful. one of my favorite combinations. it looks like you are having good weather? how is your dad?

Joy said...

@Joyce, Well its been in upper 80s here and humid every day. Could be worse and could be better. Dad is doing OK, staying inside the air conditioning BC its been around 100 every day. Yuck!

Alan said...

. . what a nice photo essay. J and I know Kaya very well - it's a regular visiting-hole at different times of the year for the flora and fauna. Had the good fortune to spend some time with Louis de Berniers (Birds Without Wings) there a few weeks ago.

Joy said...

Thanks Alan! I'm sure you can find all sorts of flora in the nooks and crannies there. And lucky you to meet Louis de Berniers! Very cool!

Lizna Liisu A. said...

Aaay beautiful post, and pictures, shared them with my friends, :) Also, They are some beautiful Greek and Bulgarian churches in istanbul, aya yorgi for example...and Sveti Stefan Kilisesi :)

Erica (Irene) said...

Love your photos....and info. I always go through the old churches in Turkey, b/c most of them were what my faith is so it always interested me....the Byzantine Orthodox.

Joy said...

@Lizna, Thanks for sharing! I'll have to look for Aya Yorgi as I don't know that one. I've actually discovered two small churches here near Emirgan Park that I didn't know about before.

@Erica (Irene), thank you! I'm not very religious, but I do appreciate the beauty and silence you find in the old churches.

Julia said...

Good to see the lower church open to the public again. They close it off, intermittently. Might have to go up there and pay our fee just to get some pics as we have no recent ones of the interior. Great photos.

lydia cp said...

Thank you for these posts.
Washing of the dead with wine and oil is a ritual that dates back to the classical period (and even earlier than that). Wine "ampelos" receives a different symbolism in Christian times as it was blessed by Christ during the last supper. I think that the ritual is called ablution http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ablution_in_Christianity

Joy said...

@Julia, thank you for the comment. Sorry I missed it before. You're lucky you're so close to Kayaköy!

@Lydia, thank you for providing some extra historical information for me! Very interesting! It was just a bit strange to see the large pile of bones in the building next to the church.

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