Alahan Monastery

Nature: Location (ruin)
Encountered: 5.4 "Grapes of Sorrow"

Info: The ruins lie in a valley between the Taurus Mountains and the Konya Plateau in southern Turkey. Local guidebooks describe the ruins as a “splendid example of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture.” The broken walls and domes are visible from the local highway.

A narrow mountain road leads from the highway up to the ruins; an SUV can easily make the 600-meter climb to the site. The site is covered by Byzantine-era remains of the Alahan Monastery (so named by the British archaeologists who excavated the site during the 1960s). There were extensive (sleeper) excavations in the 1960s.

The oldest part of the church is several caves. Over the centuries, countless smoky campfires have covered the church’s paintings and murals with a thick layer of soot. During the second century AD, pilgrims built a church in the “pagan” cave-shrine. During the 10th century, however, an earthquake and fire laid waste to monastery.

Near the cave-church is the famous Evangelical Arch, with several rows of broken columns and salvaged stonework. Grass grows from cracks in the stone flags, and rubble-strewn walls loom like broken teeth. At the east end of the colonnade is a ruined fifth-century basilica. One of the first of its kind, the basilica rises from the cliff-face in a soaring paean of stone and faith. Only the wind blows where once hymns of praise rose to the Heavens, but sometimes visitors say they can feel an unseen presence (according to the tour guides, at least). Along one column are carvings that depict the Apostles. Carved into the cliffs above the complex is a small necropolis. The dozen or so tombs are simple rock-cut sarcophagi set into the cliff-face. A ruined fountain is located several hundred yards beyond the East Basilica.

The monastery contained an ancient, secret ''back-door'' or emergency passage which gave access to the fold in space and dimensions in which resided the fabled Iram of the Pillars.


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