Inscriptions that mention either the year of a church’s dedication or the year of death of the person buried in the church provide dates for the settlement. The churches are typically cross-shaped with domes supported (though in rock-cut architecture, “supported” is used only figuratively) by four columns or piers. This design is commonly found in the 10th and 11th centuries throughout the Byzantine Empire.


In the Byzantine period, churches were often given a central position in residential complexes such as palaces or manor houses. For example, in the epic poem by Digenes Akritas, born of an Arab father and a Christian mother, the hero builds a palace on the bank of the Euphrates River. In the middle of the palace courtyard, he erects a church dedicated to St. Theodore, a Roman soldier martyred for his Christian faith. A similar arrangement of chapels located in the middle of residential courtyards is described in two Genoese deeds of transfer for the aristocratic residence of the Botaneiates family in Constantinople.



See Guillaume de Jerphanion, Une nouvelle province de l’art byzantin: Les églises rupestres de Cappadoce, 4 vols. (Paris: Libr. Orientaliste P. Gautier, 1925–42); Catherine Jolivet-Levy, Les Églises byzantines de Cappadoce: Le programme iconographique de l’abside et de ses abords (Paris: Editions du centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1991); Nicole Thierry and M. Thierry, Nouvelles églises rupestres de Cappadoce: Région du Hasan Dagi (Paris: Librarie C. Klincksieck, 1963); N. Thierry, Haut moyen-age en Cappadoce: Les églises de la region de Cavusin (Paris: Libr. Orientaliste P. Gautier, 1983); and Spiro Kostof, Caves of God: Cappadocia and Its Churches (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989).


In 1985, Lynn Rodley was the first to record the larger context of the Cappadocian churches by including the layout of halls, courtyards and utilitarian rooms attached to the churches. She also concludes that the original context was monastic (Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia [New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985]). More recently, Thomas Mathews and Annie Christine Daskalakis-Mathews have proposed that nine of Rodley’s courtyard sites without refectories are actually mansions that exhibit plans common in contemporaneous domestic architecture of the Islamic world, with which Byzantine civilization in this area of the empire had extensive contact (see “Islamic-Style Mansions in Byzantine Cappadocia and the Development of the Inverted T-Plan,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 56 [1997], pp. 294–315). In a recent survey at Canli Kilise, in western Cappadocia, Robert Ousterhout has documented a 6-mile-long village composed of 25 complexes, each arranged around a courtyard and each with a separate chapel; only one of the complexes has a rock-cut refectory and is thus defined as a monastery.


Robert Ousterhout, “Historical Design in the Environment: An Examination of a Byzantine Settlement in Cappadocia,” in Design for the Environment: The Interdisciplinary Challenge (Champaign-Urbana, IL, 1995), pp. 13–19.


See Leo the Deacon, Historiae, Patrologia Graeca, 117, 713; Ibn Hawqal, Configuration de la terre, trans. Johannes H. Kramers and G. Wiet, vol. 1 (Paris: Commission internationale pour la traduction des chefs-d’oeuvre, 1964), p. 194; and Mathews and Daskalakis-Mathews, “Islamic-Style Mansions,” p. 296.


J.-C. Cheynet, Pouvoirs et Contestations à Byzance 963–1210 (Paris: Sorbonne, Centre de recherches d’histoire et de civilisation byzantines, 1990).


The Arab geographers were al-Masudhi and Ibn Khurdadbeh. See the entry for Wadi Salamun in Friederich Hild and Marcell Restle, Kappadokien (Kappadokia, Charsianon, Sebasteia und Lykandos) (Vienna: Verlag de Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschafte, 1981), pp. 269–270.


The assumption that this gallery may have been used by women is highly problematic and necessitates further research. It has not yet been determined if women in Byzantium occupied private spaces in the household separate from spaces used by male members; work associated with the kitchen, however, does seem to be reserved for women. The hall is designed so that individuals could separate when activities such as entertainment or dining had finished on the ground floor. One group, perhaps the women or the household servants, went to the left and up into the upper gallery to sleep, while the men perhaps went to the right into another tunnel which leads to the second hall, the master bedroom. In Orthodox churches, the genders are separated, with women sitting to the left and men to the right. Did this separation hold true in the household? Reserving specific spaces in the household for women was a well-known phenomenon in the Islamic world at this time, and it may be that in the border region of Cappadocia, Byzantine households adopted certain aspects of domestic life from their Arab neighbors. Whatever the case may be, the ceremonial of daily life in Byzantium has yet to be written.


The basilica church of the Selime Kale and the Ala Kilise in Belisirma have comparable dimensions, and both are larger than the Tokali Kilise II near Göreme. The Tokali Kilise II has always been noted as the largest rock-cut church in Cappadocia. It does have a very unusual plan and perhaps the most spectacular fresco decorations from the Middle Byzantine period, but it is not the largest rock-cut church. According to a plan by Ann Wharton Epstein in Tokali Kilise: Tenth Century Metropolitan Art in Byzantine Cappadocia (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1986), the Tokali II from the north wall of the attached funerary chapel to the south wall of the nave measures 32.8 feet and the east wall of apse to west wall of nave (the entrance carved from Tokali I) 29.5 feet; the Selime basilica from the north wall of the attached chapel to the south wall of the south aisle measures 38.7 feet and from the east wall of the central apse to the west wall of the nave 39.37 feet; the Ala Kilise from north to south measures 38.8 feet, and from the east wall of the apse to west wall of the nave 39.37 feet. In summation: Tokali 32.8 by 19.5 feet; Selime 38.7 by 39.37 feet; Ala 38.8 by 39.37 feet. It would be more telling to compare interior volumes if we wanted to assess the amount of time and effort and the relative difficulty involved in hewing out these spaces. This assessment, however, cannot be done without further field work.


Lafontaine-Dosogne interprets the donor image as an aristocratic family with male members to the left and female members to the right and compares the image to the princely family depicted in the Hagia Sophia in Kiev, which is contemporary to the structure at Selime (“La Kale Kilisesi de Selime et sa représentation des donateurs,” Zetesis: Album Amicorum E. de Strijcker [Antwerp/Utrecht, 1973], pp. 741–753).