By Elizabeth Prata
Well, this is quite an interesting landform I’ve just learned about. It’s in Cappadocia.
Cappadocia is mentioned in the Bible in several places. When Peter was preaching the first sermon in Acts 2, people from around the region who had gathered for the Jewish Passover, heard Peter preaching in their own language. Cappadocians were among the people groups listed.
Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, (Acts 2:9)
Peter opened his letter with greeting fellow Christians in various areas to which they had been scattered in the persecutions. Cappadocia was one area he intended brethren to read his letter.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen…(1 Peter 1:1)
Cappadocia was a large Roman province in the central eastern part of Asia Minor, in what is now eastern Turkey.
What makes this area unique are the unusual land formations. The site is in fact now a World Heritage site. The nearby but extinct volcano Mount Erciyes emitted ash during its eruptions, of course. The layers of ash built up over subsequent eruptions. Strong wind and water eroded the ash into pillar-like formations out of the tuff. These chimney-like pillars were used as hiding places for persecuted Christians. The tuff is strong but can be carved. Archaeologists have found old dwellings and even churches inside the pillars.
Some have called the area a fairy landscape, and it is definitely bizarre and eerie, but beautiful in its sculptural aspect.
National Geographic explains: (please excuse their mention of ‘mother nature’, they know not what they do…)
Erosion shaped the incredible landscape of Turkey’s Göreme valley, but thousands of years ago humans took a cue from Mother Nature and began carving an incredible chamber and tunnel complex into the soft rock. Beginning in the fourth century A.D., an urbanized—but underground—cultural landscape was created here.
It wasn’t just Christians who needed to flee and hide from persecution. The area has been used for several thousand years as a hiding place as political regimes changed and empires came and went. You might remember the tribe Hittites from the Old Testament, ancient enemies of God. NatGeo again: (NatGeo calls the area Göreme).
Göreme was inhabited as early as the Hittite era, circa 1800 to 1200 B.C. and later sat uncomfortably on the boundary between rival empires; first the Greeks and Persians and later the Byzantine Greeks and a host of rivals. This precarious political position meant that residents needed hiding places—and found them by tunneling into the rock itself.
Called ‘fairy chimneys’, the landscape does indeed look magical. Though the landform and their uses is incredible enough, it seems that the enterprising ancients built massive underground cities and tunnels to connect them. Smithsonian has the story:
In ancient Cappadocia, now part of modern day Turkey, the people who lived there dug incredible, honeycomb-esque cities into the soft rock—underground complexes that could go stories deep. Today, remnants of these underground hives are scattered through the region, and the most recently discovered of these ruins are also some of the most impressive. In 2012, a crew of demolition workers inadvertently uncovered a network of tunnels near Neveshir, Turkey, and now that archeologists have given this find a deeper look, they think it could turn out to be the most extensive underground city ever known.
Whenever someone replies to me about the Bible being God’s truth, saying, ‘Aw it’s just a bunch of hooey written by know-nothing ancient desert shepherds,’ I laugh to myself and think of the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Machu Picchu, and now the fairy chimneys and underground cities of Cappadocia. And what a blessing the fleeing Christians had places to flee to and live in during the persecutions. God’s foreordination saw to it that they had a place to run to.
Thanks for coming on a virtual trip with me to eastern Turkey. All those cities and locations mentioned in the Bible are so interesting. Now, where will I “visit” next”?… 😛
The site became a religious refuge during the early days of Christianity. Monks excavated extensive dwellings and monasteries and created Byzantine fresco paintings in cave chapels beginning in the seventh century. The paintings endure in well-preserved isolation to this day. Source NatGeo
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID SUTHERLAND, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO