Located in a peaceful garden setting, Keslik Monastery is the most spacious monastery in Cappadocia. If you have visited Turkey many times and have seen all the famous cities and sites, you must visit Keslik Monastery, so you can see something different. It has a 2,000-year-old history and over the course of these years, it has been developed and used in different ways.
The Monastery complex is located outside Urgup and has two churches (St. Stephen and St. Michael) to visit, a nicely build refectory hall and a number of living quarters. If you want to go to this site, you can get clear directions on Google Maps. It’s located on the south side of Urgup just outside the village of Cemil and it’s just 10-15 minutes drive. Even though Keslik Monastery is its common name, it is also known as Archangel Monastery in Keslik Valley.
This site is a cultural heritage and if you are interested in history, this is a place, you should definitely visit. Originally, it was a burial ground for Romans situated near the spring. The first church, St. Stephen Church was built around 900 AD along with some rooms. Then in the early 1200s, it was expanded and other rooms were built too.
When you enter into the site, you would see the central courtyard that was formed by natural erosion long ago; hence it has an irregular shape. You would also notice a lack of design pattern as not as only a little effort has been made to improve its appearance. The Monastery features more than 50 rooms that are used for different purposes. These rooms were carved hundreds of years ago by monks. They used to live, pray, and work in these rooms.
Just above St. Michael’s Church lies the most important room, connected through a dome. It had a huge sliding door, a window, and a clear view of two apses underneath. This cell was then carved and turned into a pigeon house.
The first church, St. Stephen Church is a single-nave church and you will also see beautiful paintings. You can enter the church through the southern wall that’s a bit broken. If you want to see Byzantine and Roman tombs, you should see the external wall. Even though the paintings are colorful, they have lost the original touch. They are not in very good condition, but you can still understand what they depict.
St. Michael’s Church was used until 1920 by local Greeks. So, if you see a black layer of soot, it’s because they used to light candles and burn incense very often for more than 1,000 years. The current design of the church is not what it used to be as it only had one nave on the right that was built around 1200 years ago. Then, in the 1200s the church was expanded and the second nave was built. In the same century, the two naves were connected.
The refectory hall is one of the most spectacular refectories in Cappadocia. If you go to the rear of the courtyard, this is where the monks’ dining hall was set. The rear end is also comparatively higher, not because to drain water, but to elevate the leader’s throne. Originally there was only one right hall that was a wide space. But, then, to accommodate more people another table was carved. The hall is divvied into two sections by a wall. You might thing the arches are unnecessary, but they serve social purposes. The refectory features double tables, so there was no problem in hosting hundreds of visitors.
As you can understand that in monastery churches hold the core value and they also have a direct impact on daily life. But, at that time people were unable to read and this prevented them from learning about Christianity. This was a big concern for the religious leaders who wanted the people to learn and follow the religion. So to address this issue, they painted frescoes on the walls and ceilings that depict scenes from the Bible. Even though the frescoes are too old and have suffered wear and tear, they are still easily visible. This shows the great work done by the excavators. Not only the frescoes depict the scenes from the Bible, but they also show the daily life of agriculture and farming.