Located near Ihlara Valley, Ala Church is an incredibly built cave church. Compared to other cave churches of the region, it has distinguished importance and its façade is unmatched too. Also called, the Mottled Church, the church was constructed around 1000AD.
It is situated around 295 meters east of the river valley, in the Belisirma village, Guzelyurt district of Aksaray Province. If you want to reach it from Aksaray city center, the total distance is 36 km.
The church has a very impressive façade
The church has a very impressive cliff-face and it’s probably the most unique of the church. If you see other cave churches in this region, you will see that they have concealed, and usually, simple entrances, but Ala Church has a big, decorated façade. There are probably not many examples of such an extensive facade on a church, and usually, you see them in a large complex that has several rooms. When you get close to it, you can clearly view the sacred marks chiseled on the rock face. The narthex was replaced by the façade as the entrance point of this sacred place. The whole exterior is ornamental, and unlike the masonry architecture, neither the lines nor the sections correlate with the interior architecture.
A deeper look into the Church Architecture
The structure that once served as a community church for the nearby living Byzantine/Orthodox Christians, is among the largest cave churches in Cappadocia. It measures 11m x 14m. It does not have any burial graves.
The visitors have to go through the massive large arch that follows the interior arches, to walk into the nave, as there is no entrance space. Both the cross-in-square and cross-domed plans were followed and you can elements of each in the layout design. There is a central bay that contains four side bays, each having a dome. The flat ceiling has five round domes, which get support from the triangular framed pendentives. They don’t have a structural function. Their only purpose is to follow and add to the architectural character of a typical masonry structure.
Over the years, the paintings have been damaged to a great extent. Today, you can only see the painting on the upper walls, even though the interior was plastered completely and has paintings all around. Other paintings could not be preserved including the paintings on domes and apses.
The astonishing exterior, massive interior space, and extensive paintings make Ala Church a very impressive cave church in the region. You can tell from the structure that contains different architectural elements merged beautifully, that the builders were extremely skilled. The builders preferred the façade over the narthex, crated converse pendentives, and turned the front bays to the worship area.