14 April 2012


The orange colored ruins of Papylos Church at Kanlidivine make a striking contrast against the bright blue Turkish skies.  Built during the Byzantine Empire, the intricate carved reliefs are still visible and the arches are a fun experiment in photographic composition. The drive here is a simple straight shot from Incirlik on the autoban.  

You can go on your own, or explore these ruins on a trip with Outdoor Recreation where we visit this site's temple to Zeus plus the other, larger, site at Uzuncaburc.  

Entrance Fee: 5 TL
Getting There:  About 2 hours from Incirlik.
N 36°58.188'  E035°03.094'
Physical Difficulty: Medium. Loose rocky footing.

from the English language Turkish newspaper, Today's Zaman

At Kanlıdivane, midway between Erdemli and Kızkalesi on the eastern Mediterranean coast, a collection of early Byzantine basilicas clustered together around an enormous tree-filled chasm that must surely have seemed to the ancients like the very gates of hell. It's a spectacular site, especially when you get it to yourself.

According to most commentators, Kanlıdivane means “Place of Blood” or even “Bloody Place of Madness,” and the locals are only too keen to explain how wrongdoers used to be hurled to their deaths in the chasm where wild animals waited to devour them.

In reality, the name is probably just a corruption of the ancient Carytelis via the intermediary Kanıdeli, but the sheer isolation of the site and the crowding together of the monuments here makes it immediately obvious that this was somewhere of huge religious significance, more so even than the similar and certainly much better known site of Cennet Cehennem (Heaven and Hell) just along the coast to the west.

Photo by Joseph So
Otherwise the only place even vaguely reminiscent of Kanlıdivane is Binbirkilise (1001 Churches) near Karaman, which lacks the added attraction of the crater-like hole.

The chasm is truly mind-boggling, measuring 90m in length by 70m in width and dropping down some 60m to the bottom. Today you can only venture a little way inside it, just far enough to be able to make out a rock-cut Roman carving of a family of six people.

There's a second carving of a solitary soldier further down into the chasm and visible from the eastern rim; in times gone by it apparently bore an inscription identifying the man as one Trogomes.

Although Kanlıdivane is often described as a town, the impression actually given by the site is of an enormous shrine -- something like Lourdes, perhaps -- that survived from pagan times into those of early Christianity.

Right beside the parking lot and looming over the chasm stands a three-story Hellenistic tower that bears an inscription linking the chasm to Zeus Olbios, the Greek god worshipped at Olba near Uzuncaburç, above what is now Silifke. But the ruins of four basilicas lining the edge of the chasm suggest that the worship of Zeus segued neatly into the worship of Christ during the course of the fourth century and hung on here at least into the sixth century. Something of the power of the site still hangs on even today to judge by a handful of more modern tombs lined up in front of the Second Basilica.

There's little now to distinguish the four basilicas bar how much still remains of them. The most impressive are the so-called First Basilica, which stands closest to the tower, and the Fourth Basilica, which is also known as the Papylos Church, after the donor whose name still survives in an inscription. This stands right on the edge of the drop and although it presumably once had a wall on the side overlooking the chasm this is now completely lost, and it's tempting to imagine in its place one vast picture window overlooking that immense and frightening breach in the earth.

The basilicas seem to have been simply decorated and today only the crosses on their lintels and a few stone capitals survive. Those in the Papylos Church are by far the finest, resembling ferns gently blowing in the breeze. Records indicate that there was once a fresco of the Four Evangelists here, but this is long gone.

Beyond the basilicas more anonymous ruined buildings straggle up the hillside, which is surmounted by a striking second-century tomb built for her husband and children by a local woman called Aba in a design that evokes that of a small temple.

Festival venue: Kanlıdivane is used as a one-off venue during the Mersin International Music Festival in May.

About Today's Zaman
With an open-minded and visionary perspective, Today's Zaman was born out of this necessity as an English-only newspaper in 2007. Within a year of its launch, Today's Zaman became the most-circulating English-language newspaper in Turkey, scoring substantial distance from its closest competitor. Its excellence was also confirmed by the presentation of 21 awards in the Society for News Design's (SND) annual "The Best of Newspaper Design Creative Competition." Today's Zaman won an "Award of Excellence" in the contest in 2008, following closely some of the world's most prestigious newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Guardian.

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