Göreme, in a spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion, the Göreme valley and its surroundings contain rock-hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period. Dwellings, troglodyte villages and underground towns – the remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century – can also be seen there. Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the largest open air museum on the world.
In the 2nd century AD there were ascetic monks who had adopted seclusion alone in the Cappadocia region, especially around Göreme. Although they were independent of monasteries and churches, they were an important social community. What made Cappadocia the centre of religious thought and life in the 3rd century was the presence of clergy with powerful character.
In the following century, the region was known as the hometown of the three great clergy. These were the Bishop of Kaisareia, Basileios, his brother Gregorios of Nyssagia and Gregorios of Nazianus. Basileios, known as the ‘Great’, returned to his hometown, Kaisareia, the headquarters of the Cappadocia region, to devote himself to the monastic life. He was also effective in spreading the monastery life collectively.
A monastic life was present intensively in Göreme from 4th century AD to 13th century. There are many churches, chapels, cafeterias and seating areas in almost every rock block. Göreme Open Air Museum is the place where this education system was launched. The churches were painted with two types of techniques. The first one is painting directly on the rock surface and the second one is fresco-secco (tempera) technique. Topics covered in the church are taken from the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. The Göreme Open Air Museum houses the Girls and Boys Monastery, St. Basil’s Church, Elmalı Church, Saint Barbara Church, Serpent Church, Malta Crusader Church, Dark Church, Saint Catherine Church, Carikli Church and Tokali Church. The archaeological site was opened to visitors in 1967.