Cappadocian Fathers

Towards the end of the A.D. 3rd Century, early Christians discovered the underground settlements in the so called "Inner Cappadocia," that is, the triangle between Nyssa, Nazianzus and Caesarea, and settled to lead a monastry life as taught by Saint Basil the Great, (ca.330-379) who in 370 had become the Bishop of Caesarea (modern Kayseri) and was a leading churchman in the 4th Century. 

Saint Basil the Great, together with Saint Gregory the Theologian from Nazianzus (modern Nevşehir) and his brother Saint Gregory of Nyssa (modern Niğde) are known as the "Cappadocian Fathers" who laid the pattern for formulating the doctrines related to the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  Not to be confused with the Russian Saint Basil after whom the St.Basil Cathedral in Moscow was named, or with the Serbian Saint Basil of Ostrog,  Saint Basil of Cappadocia, was born at Caesarea at about A.D.330 He came from a wealthy and pious family which gave a number of saints, including his mother Saint Emmelia, grandmother Saint  Macrina the Elder, sister Saint Macrina the Younger and brothers Saints Gregory of Nyssa (Niğde) and Peter of Sebaste. Sebaste is the ancient name of the  modern city of Sıvas, about 150 km from Kayseri.


St. Basil of Cappadocia, was educated in İstanbul and Athens where it is said that he became interested in the famous hermit saints of  Syria and Arabia, who taught him how to attain enthusiastic piety and keep his body under submission by asceticism - a sojourn which seems to have led him to advocate community life, prayer and physical labor rather than the solitary asceticism that was popular at the time.  It was under his guidance that the first churches were built in Goreme Valley. Here, a number of small communities with their own churches formed the large monastic complex that is now the Open Air Museum. Hundreds of churches are reported to have been built in this valley but at this time no known churches from St. Basil's time remain. In Goreme, the Tokali Kilise or the "Buckle Church" is easily the loveliest of the churches with graceful arches and beautiful frescoes. There is a well preserved fresco, believed to be made  sometime in the Iconaclastic Era (716-843) in the so calledYılanlı Church (The Church of the Serpent)  picturing  Saint Basil the Great killing the dragon with Emperor Constantine and his mother Elena watching over. 

The earliest record of the underground settlements is to be found in Xenophon's "Anabasis."  According to this book, Hellenic communities stayed in the underground settlements of Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu, which makes it possible to date the underground cities back as early as the end of the 4th century BC. There is also speculation that the words in Genesis, GEN 23:20, 49:30, 50:13 about the caves and Hittites may have actually been referring to Cappadocian underground settlements.

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