(Part 2/2) While traveling we sometimes happen to be at truly incredible places that leave us speechless and touch us deeply. Last time I wrote about two magical cities I have visited and today I will present you two really beautiful churches in very different und unexpected areas!
Church of “Santa Maria di Costantinopoli” (Ugento / Lecce, Italy)
One of the places that left me absolutely speechless was the little town “Ugento” in Southern Puglia, Italy. Before, I had heard about a little subterranean crypt in that area and so I wanted to visit it of course! When I finally got the local archeologist to meet me there with the keys in his hands (because no one else even seemed to even know about it!), I was absolutely blown away. I hadn’t expected it at all to be the way it was.
In a little field next to a country road in the middle of nowhere, there was a church and beside it, there was the entrance of the crypt, which had been built before its upper ground church from the 17th century. So once you enter and follow the stone stairs downwards, you end up in a small simple stone hall that is filled all around with colorful wall paintings. Even on the ceiling you will find stars and planets. Several images of Christ, the Virgin Mary and red crosses from the Templars accompanied by Greek and Latin writings can also be found all over the crypt. You can literally spend hours in that small room, just looking at every single painting and trying to guess (or better read in a guide!) from which epoch they date and what their meaning is. Also the upper ground church is extremely colorful and since it was built more recently, the colors of all images are much brighter. It seemed to me, like if they were telling a story, a story from another time, centuries ago. So if you happen to be in this area with a car (you will absolutely need one!), try to pass by that church and crypt and let them inspire you! Find here more information in Italian.
Karanlik Kilise – Dark church, Göreme Valley (Cappadocia, Turkey)
While traveling through Turkey, I obviously also went to see the magical and very unique Göreme Valley (UNESCO world heritage site) with all its fairy chimneys and beauty. This valley alone is worth a trip! So if you have the chance to go there – don’t hesitate!
There are many spots in the valley which are not accessible due to safety reasons and it also depends very much on the wheater what you can visit or not: the rocks get slippery very easily, so that the guards might not allow you to climb up to some of the houses and churches. The “Dark church” is not an exception.
Some of the churches have been preserved over centuries and are said to be as old as the apostle Paul himself, but actually date from the 4th to the 11th century. And also the paintings in the Dark church remained practically as they were centuries ago. In the early 20th century, shepherds discovered its entrance when they were seeking out for shelter.
Entering the church you will be absolutely overwhelmed by its bright colors, which are all over the place and by the deep spirituality you will instantly feel. It seems like there isn’t a single spot which is not painted. Historians believe that only in periods of peace this kind of art could blossom, as there were no enemies to constantly attack them. Therefore people didn’t have to flee in their underground cities and could concentrate instead on other aspects than survival – as on religious art for instance. This place “screams” spirituality and I absolutely got chills just by standing in the middle of this highly protected place. Unfortunately, all beautiful things are once “revealed to the masses” and nowadays there are thousands of tourists lining up to enter. Regrettably this kind of ruins the atmosphere, as guards will only allow a few people to enter at a time (for the emerging humidity) and also taking photos is strictly forbidden. Thus, it is nearly impossible to being alone in this wonderful place and to feel all its magic. When I went there it was January and there were -10°, but I still had to share these moments with a handful of other people. Luckily they respected the church.
So, if you decide to go to see it – which you absolutely should! – try to find out the best times to maybe even be there alone to enjoy all its magic! (irene)
Photo credits: Irene