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Early Christianity in Cappadocia

After jesus was crucified, his apostles spread out to different regions and Christianity entered a new phase. During the Byzantine era numerous churches, monasteries and uderground cities were constructed throughout Cappadocia . From the third century onwards there was a significant increase in the Christian population.

Whe the persecution of Christians began to increase in the fourth century, the shelters carved into the rocks of Cappadocia became a magnet for believers . Later, with the presece of men of religion who would come to be known as the ‘Cappadocian Fathers’, each of whom would be elevated to sainthood, Cappadocia would become a ceter of religious life an thought. Three great saints of the region during the fourth cetury are outstanding: Saint Gregory (the Theologian) of Nazianzos, from Nenezili in the present-day Aksaray district of Bekarlar(329-394), Saint Gregory of Nyssa(335-394)from the presentday region of Nevşehir, and his brother Saint Basileios [Basil] of Caesarea (329-379), present-day Kayseri. During their time the construction of small churches and monasteries would accelerate , and Christianity would make great strides. Saint Basileios, also known as Saint Basil the Great, was the son of a wealthy family and as such, received a classical education and religious instruction, first in Constantinepolis and later in Athens. He decided to go to Caesarea to devote himself to monastic life. Following a period of dallying in monasteries within the boundaries of the empire in Egypt and Syria, he settled in Neo-Caesarea near the Pontus. A Pioneer i the establishment of the cenobitic life, communual living in monastic orders, Saint Basil of Caesarea convinced the hermits living sequestered lives to congregate in monasteries, and explained to them that the individual life of seclusion did little to contribute to the common good. The Works he wrote o the subject of the cloistered life, theology and eccelesiastical law, along whit his exhortations regarding forms of behavior and doctrie, are still valid today in Christian society. For instance, in times of famine Basil urges Christians to break up their single piece of bread and share it, and leave themselves to the protection of the Lord. Basil was not merely a strict man of religion, however, and he gathered the hermits together in monasteries that were not far removed from their settlements,and which provided small cells which they could use as places of spiritual refuge. Elevated to sainthood because of his services to the cause of Chiristianity , Basil has a special and important placeamong the fathers of the churc. It is for this reason that he is always awarded a deserving position in the center of frescoes . To this day, every year on the 1st and 2nd days of January in Kayseri a special feast day is stil celebrated in honor of Saint Basil, who died in Cappadocia on the 1st of January 379.

Cappadocia’s firs monasteries, developed under the leadership of Basil, were small structures built to provide the Christian monks with solitude and a place for meditation. During these difficult years for Christianity, the early monasteries and churches were architecturally quite simple, and were located near sources of water. Daily worshipin these small monasteries took place under the supervision of a member of the clergy. The Christians who lived in these structures were unlıke the groups in Egypt and Syria who enjoyed a more privileged situation. Everything was shared, the sick were tended, and there were no differences that would cause a rupture with the populace . The greates reform undertaken by Saint Basil was the practice of common prayer that he instituted in the churches of Göreme. This system would later be maintained in the churches in the Soğanlı,Ihlara,Gömede and Açıksaray valleys. As for Gregory of Nazianzos, like Basil he defended the Greek and slav position that persons living the cloistered life should not cut themselves off from relations with the world, a concept that influenced the monasteries in the regions of Belisırma,Ihlara and Güzelyurt.This Saint, together with Saint Basil, played an important role in the foundation of the Orthodox church.