Wednesday, January 21, 2015

the missing faces of saints

The Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia is riddled with caves, many of which were constructed into early churches. This particular beauty, the Ağaçaltı Church, has biblical frescoes that date back to the 9th–11th centuries CE.

As is typical of any early Christian structure in Turkey, there is an unbelievable amount of vandalism and graffiti, with many of the faces of saints scratched out. Much of the graffiti dates back over decades and sometimes even centuries, but some of it is as recent as the week before last. Having always been told that Muslims ran rampant across the land, chipping off faces and eyes in disagreement with the depiction of the human form in art, I am confused by the amount of Greek, Armenian, and Georgian text etched into the painted surfaces. There is everything from names to entire paragraphs in these languages, and I have to wonder what the intentions were behind all of this destructive expression...  

It's all a shame really; it doesn't matter what religion these frescoes depict, they are part of our human history. I do hate to see the beautiful faces destroyed, and I wonder what kind of tacky individual needs to profess their love for a girl by carving her name in a heart on a 9th Century fresco. Was she impressed?

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