Containing Cappadocia’s most amazing frescoes, Gumusler Monastery is located just outside the city of Nigde. The monastery is one of the largest and well-preserved monasteries in the region. Generally, the monasteries in Cappadocia are divided into two categories, ones with dining halls and ones with open courtyards. It belongs to the second category.
The courtyard of the fortress has huge rock walls and to get there you have to go through a tunnel. The courtyard was created by carving a huge cube from the base and from here other structures are carved out. It was a hidden complex, so it was more secure.
The complex also known as Eski Gumus Monastery is located in the village of Eski Gumus around 9.5km northeast of Nigde. Gumusler Monastery has several rooms. The complex contains some of the best-preserved frescoes that were painted around 1050 A.D. But, the monastery is about 1200 years old as it was carved before the frescoes were painted.
When visitors enter the complex, the first thing they notice is the northern wall, that’s the most ornate and was built to create a good impression on tourists. The wall is decorated by tall arches, that themselves are well decorated. The legs of the arches are damaged now, due to maybe the winters or other natural reason. But, there are holes in the façade that use t hold timber beams, so it is possible that the people cut the legs of the arches to make a wood structure. This probably happened after the Byzantine-era, when Ottomans took control of the premises.
There are several entrances on the northern wall. If you use the far left door, you will enter into a rectangular room that was the cooking area perhaps. The decorated middle door is the most important, as it takes you to the church entrance. The far-right door leads to the center of the church, but it’s closed now. You can also see a strange entrance above the middle door. It was a window that served as a source of lighting, but then the window was expanded and an entrance was created that leads to the upstairs room.
External stairs were created to complete the entrance. The room was there originally, and the only access to the room was through a ladder. You can see pictures on the walls that depict scenes from the moral stories of a Greek storyteller. You can also see these pictures in most monastic complexes. They are used even today by different societies.
The purpose of this room is not yet confirmed and different scholars propose different functions for this room. According to one scholar, it was used as a library or a treasury. Another scholar thinks this area was the sitting space for the master. But the presence of two beds in arched recesses indicates that it was the monk’s cell.
The dining hall or the refractory was very well carved and was connected directly to the church. There is a barrel vault ceiling that starts from a high band. It is a large place where people used to gather for meals. There is an indication of a rock table and benches on the front right. Several graves were dug into the floor of this hall. This place could have been the monastery refractory as indicated from its location close to the church and graves.
The external entrance of the church was carved brilliantly, but it was not completed. It has a barrel vault ceiling starting from a cornice band. There are tall arches on the walls. You can see a Greek cross cut in relief above on the wall above the exit. Between the entrance to the courtyard and church, the lower arches were cut to create a space for painting frescoes.
The church in the complex is well-preserved too. It was carved beautifully. It has tall, round pillars that are black. There are graves on the north and west walls. A thick layer of plaster was used, so the frescoes are still in good condition. But, the paintings on the right side are affected by water damage.
This complex was carved by the Christians in the middle of the Byzantine-era. It was an important structure for the community as the fine architecture of the structure shows. The living rooms were used by the monks. It’s not clear how many monks used to live here, but it’s a very large complex, so it may have hosted about 20 monks.
The museum is open for 365 days a year, from 9 am–5 pm. You can go to the site from the main road by following the sign. From the entrance booth, you can go through the tunnel to get to the courtyard.