Gülşehir (‘city of roses’ in Turkish) is situated on the southern bank of the Red River (Kızılırmak), 20 km from Nevşehir, and was in ancient times called Zoropassos. In the vicinity of Gülşehir there are still rocks and steles with inscriptions from the Hittites.

Later, during the Roman Empire, the town was called Arapsun. The Ottoman grand vizier Karavezir Mehmet Seyyid Paşa did the same thing in Güşsehir as Damat Ibrahim Paşa did in Nevşehir, namely built a külliye in a town which had only 30 houses at that time. This complex consisted of a mosque, a medrese and a fountain.

St. Jean Church (Karşı Kilise)

The two-storyed church of St. Jean, situated in Gülşehir, also houses a wine cellar, graves, water channels and living quarters on the lower floor, and a church decorated with Biblical scenes on the upper floor. According to the inscription on the apse, the church is dated to 1212.

The church on the lower floor is built in the shape of a cross, having one apse and barrel-vaulted arms of the cross. The central dome has collapsed. Stylized animals, geometrical and crucifix designs were used to decorate the church in red ochre, which was applied directly onto the rock. The church on the upper floor has one apse, and is barrel-vaulted. Apart from those on the apse, the well-preserved frescoes were covered with a layer of black soot. The church was completely restored by Ridvan Isler in 1995.

Scenes of the St. Jean Church: on the apse Deesis can be seen, on its front the Annunciation, below that bird designs, on the barrel vault portraits of saints in medallions, on the south wing of the vault the Last Supper, Betrayal by Judas, Baptism are depicted, below Koimesis (Mother Mary falling asleep), on the north wings of the vault Descent from the Cross, Women at the Tomb, Anastasis, on the West and South walls the Last Judgment, a scene rarely depicted in Cappadocian churches, can be seen.

Open Palace (Açıksaray)

5 km outside Gülşehir is a deserted cave-village with rock-cut dwellings and chapels, which is called Open Palace. The function of this cave complex is not clear. It is presumed that it was built in the 10-11th centuries and served travellers as a caravanserai. It covers the area of one square kilometer and contains eight complexes gathered around three-sided courtyards, each with a decorated main facade. The village is remarkable for its facades and the interesting-looking rock formations, one resembling a huge mushroom. The first complex on the right, when you enter Aciksaray, has one of the best elaborate facades in Cappadocia. Only in Aciksaray, it is possible to see the motif of the bull, regarded sacred by the Neolithic communities in Anatolia as well as the Hittites.

St Jean Church and Open Palace can be visitide on our One-day Private Tour 4: Off-the-beaten-track Cappadocia

Gülşehir Gülşehir
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