The Dark Church is the most important historical monument in Cappadocia that has survived from the Byzantine period. Compared to other historical buildings in Cappadocia, this church in Goreme has the best preserved Byzantine frescoes.
This church, where the frescoes still preserve their vivid colors, is known as the “Karanlik Kilise” in the local language. In this article, you can find information about the entrance fee and visiting hours of Dark Church, the jewel of Goreme Open Air Museum.
History of the Dark Church in Goreme
The history of Dark Church goes back a thousand years, that is, to the Medieval Byzantine period. Dark Church, one of the most important tourist attractions of Cappadocia, offers us information about the medieval monastic life.
The Church receives a very low amount of light from the small window in the Narthex and the name of the church comes from here. Since the sunlight was low, the frescoes remained largely alive. In fact, according to experts, the Dark Church has the best preserved frescoes in Cappadocia.
Built in the 11th century, the Dark Church is in UNESCO World Heritage List alongside with Goreme National Park. The church is located in the Goreme Valley of Cappadocia, which was one of the most popular areas of those who wanted to retreat during the Byzantine period.
Cappadocia, a home to Christian monks for centuries, changed identity after the fall of Byzantium. Cappadocia, where the monasteries were abandoned, became a living space of the people thanks to its favorable geography. Recent sources say that the church was used as a pigeon’s nest until the 1950s.
Some experts attribute the long-term preservation of the frescoes in the church to pigeon manure. The fact that the magnificent frescoes of the church have survived to our day is pleasing for art and history lovers. Many events in the Bible are depicted on the walls and ceiling of the church.
One of the large domes of the church is dedicated to the fresco of Christ Pantocrator. The depiction of Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of All) was one of the most prominent religious motifs of the Byzantine period. Two other images of Christ Pantocrator from Byzantium are found in the Hagia Sophia and Chora (aka Kariye) mosques in Istanbul.
The important events in the Bible are told through the Byzantine art on the walls of the Dark Church. The most important of these scenes are Annunciation, Baptism of Jesus, Raising of Lazarus, Metamorphosis, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion of Jesus, Harrowing of Hell, The Three Marys, The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles and Ascension scenes.
When you see such beautiful works of art, I can imagine that you will want to view them immediately. However, do not forget to turn off your flash before taking pictures, as the frescoes are sensitive to light.
Best Frescoes in the Dark Church
Located in Goreme, the most visited tourist destination in Cappadocia, Dark Church hosts magnificent frescoes. These works of art from the Byzantine Empire give us clues about the Christian art of that period.
You can find a selection of the best frescoes in the Dark Church, known as the Karanlik Kilise, in the lines below. Of course, each mosaic is valuable, and choosing the best is a subjective decision. But I tried to introduce the best preserved ones.
1. Christ Pantocrator
It is possible to come across Christ Pantocrator, an important description of Christian iconography in many churches in Europe. Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known religious icon, is depicted as Jesus making a sign of consecration with his right hand while holding the holy book in his left hand.
The word Pantokrator means “the master of the universe”. This depiction adorns the large dome of the Dark Church and is identified with the church.
Deesis, like Christ Pantokrator, is an icon in which Jesus is in the center. Jesus, who stands in the middle of the icon, carries a book with him, next to the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. In this mosaic depicting the Last Judgment, Mary and John ask God for mercy on behalf of sinful people.
3. The three Marys
According to a scene in the Bible, three women who come to Jesus’ grave see that the sarcophagus was empty. The names of these women were Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome.
This narrative takes place in the Gospels of John, Mark, Luke and Matthew. The three Marys are portrayed in the frescoes in the Dark Church, the most important historical monument of the Goreme Open Air Museum.
Dark Church Entrance Fee 2023
Dark Church entrance fee is 50 Turkish Lira per person as of 2023. Museum Pass is not valid for the entrance. The Dark Church is located within the Goreme Open Air Museum, but you will still need to purchase a separate ticket to enter here. The information about the entry fee was last updated on January 9, 2023.
Guided Tour Tickets for Goreme Open Air Museum
You can purchase guided tour tickets for the Goreme Open Air Museum. These tickets are more expensive than the standard museum ticket, but give you the advantage of fast track. You can also join a small group and tour Goreme with a guide.
If you want to book a Goreme guided tour ticket, you can buy tickets here. Tickets are sold under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international travel site. You can cancel the tour up to 24 hours and get a full refund.
Dark Church Opening Hours 2023
Dark Church opening hours are between 08:00 in the morning to 17:00 in the evening. However, ticket sales for the museum end at 16:15. Since the Church is within the Goreme Open Air Museum, the same times are valid for both. Information on visiting hours was last updated on January 9, 2023.
Visiting hours at the museums in Turkey may change each year. Therefore, you are advised to check the official website of the museum before visiting the church.
More About Cappadocia
Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most important tourist destinations. If you are planning a trip to Cappadocia, you can review the comprehensive articles on this site. I would like to suggest you three articles about this region:
In order to decide where to stay in Cappadocia, the best cave hotels in Cappadocia blog post may be helpful. If you are preparing a travel itinerary in Cappadocia, the article on things to do in Cappadocia may be of use to you.
Finally, you can read the Cappadocia hot air balloon article, which provides a lot of information about the most popular activity of Cappadocia, the balloon tours. Joining a balloon flight in Cappadocia will give you the opportunity to take amazing photos of the volcanic formations.
Written by Serhat Engul