One of the oldest Christian shrines in the historical region of Cappadocia, the Red Church is unlike any other. It is said to be erected during the rule of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The Red Church (Turkish: “Kizil” Church) is a great example of traditional masonry architecture and its difference in this sense from other churches which were made from volcanic rock. By looking at its design and construction, you can get an idea of the impeccable craftsmanship at that time. From what the radiocarbon dating tells us, the church probably was built after the passing of St. Gregory, in 560.
The Red Church is located in Guzelyurt, near Sivrihisar village, in the west of Cappadocia, in the middle of low-laying land opposite the Melendiz Mountains. It was built in the name of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (330-390), who’s among the most prominent Fathers of Cappadocia. The church got its name from the red stones that were used in its construction. It was once an important place of worship for Orthodox Christian pilgrims. The Sivrihisar village is located at a distance of 52 km from Aksaray and it’s at a 5.2 km distance from Guzelyurt.
The church’s architecture is incredible, and its most eminent feature is the central dome. It was made from stone and an octagonal base supports it. The windows at the bottom of the building serve as a source of light. It’s also said that it was once used as a funerary chapel, because of large lintels and granite blocks. The pilgrims to Jerusalem also used to make a stop here. St. Gregory spent his last days in a farmhouse located in this area after his return to Guzelyurt; some researchers attest to it.
The World Monuments Fund announced the List of “World’s 100 Most Endangered Historic Buildings” in 2008, and the Red Church was a part of that list. In 2011, the restoration program began at the Red church, because it was in high danger of collapsing. Greece, France, the U.S. and Turkey contributed to the reconstruction program. Good construction work has been done so far, including completing the dome.
Red Church is among those Christian buildings in Turkey that managed to survive. It depicts the significant role this region has had in cultural, religious, and economic development. Even though this region is popular for its rock-carved structures and exceptionally designed chapels, that’s not what the church is known for. What makes it unique is its spectacular architecture and the fact that it’s a clerical building of notable size.