Aksaray Tourist Attractions
Central Anatolia (Tuz-Gölü basin)Situation and ImportanceThis medium-sized town in its horticultural oasis is a provincial capital.
Situated on the banks of the Melendiz Suyu, below the step-fault marking the eastern edge of the Tuz-Gölü basin, Aksaray is dominated by the great volcanic pyramid and twin peaks of Hasan Dag (Büyük Hasan Dag 3,268m/10,725ft, Küçük Hasan Dag 3,069m/10,072ft) and the bulky volcanic massif of Melendiz Dag (2,963m/9,725ft). With the famous Cappadocian tuff cone region only a short distance away, Aksaray has attracted little attention, apart from its automotive industry.HistoryIn antiquity the town was called Garsaura. Many historians equate it with the even more ancient oriental town of Kursaura whose ruler is believed to have been a party to an alliance in the third millennium B.C. against the Accadian King Naramsis. Following rebuilding the town was renamed Archelais by the Cappadocian King Archelaos. It came to enjoy considerable status as a frontier fortress against Lycaonia and a crossroads between Ephesus and the middle reaches of the Euphrates on the one hand and Ankara and Tyana (near Nigde) on the other.During the Rum Sultanate (from the 11th century) the Seljuk Sultan Kiliç Arslan II (1156-88) built a castle here, where Henry the Lion was fêted while returning home from a pilgrimage. Among the gifts lavished upon him were 30 magnificent horses with silver bridles (specially picked from among the 1800 in the Sultan's stables), six dromedaries, two leopards and six tents. In the 13th century the town fell to the Mongols before passing in the 14th century to the Karamanlidhes. The Ottomans resettled part of the population in Istanbul, hence that city's Aksaray district.
Ibrahim Kadiroglu Medresesi Koranic school
The Ibrahim Kadiroglu Medresesi Koranic school in Aksaray, built by the Seljuks in the 12th/13th century was restored in the mid 15th century by the Karamanlidhes. A ruined Seljuk fortress dominates the town.
Kizil Minare Minaret
The Kizil Minare minaret (also called Egri Minare) in Aksaray, decorated with fine tiles, dates from the Seljuk period. Unfortunately its mosque, the Kiliç Arslan II Mosque, has not survived.
The stone-vaulted Ulu Cami in the center of Aksaray, built by the Karamanlidhes between 1433 and 1435, boasts an exceptionally fine carved Seljuk staircase pulpit from the Kiliç Arslan II Mosque.
Zinciriye Medresesi Koranic School
The Zinciriye Medresesi Koranic school (with a beautiful portal), built by the local Karamanlis dynasty between 1336 and 1345, houses a small museum.
According to an inscription this impressive caravanserai with seven-sided corner towers, about 15km/9mi east of Aksaray on the old caravan route from Konya to Kayseri, was built between 1231 and 1238 during the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad I. Also known as the Hoca Mesut Kervansarai it is one of three exceptionally well preserved Seljuk halts between Sivas and Konya. The arcaded courtyard has a small mosque (mesçid) in the middle. At right-angles to the huge entrance gate stands a vast hall with half a dozen transept-like bays either side of a central area. Daylight floods in through a dome over the penultimate "crossing". Both the main entrance and the hall portal are richly ornamented.
A Byzantine fort on top of a steep cliff stands guard over the village of Akhisar about 12km/7.5mi southeast of Aksaray. Of the various rock-cut churches in the neighborhood, the 10th-11th century Canli Kilise (Bell Tower Church, several phases of construction), 7km/4mi or so east of the village, gives the best idea of how the wall-paintings must once have looked. It is a Byzantine church with a two-storyed narthex and three apses arranged around a central chamber.
The valley-gorge of the Melendiz Suyu river between Ihlara and Selimiye takes its name from ancient Peristrema (Belisirma as it now is). With the exception of the Açikel Aga Kilisesi (Church of Our Lord with the Open Hand), the numerous churches in and around the village are decorated with post-iconoclastic paintings (10th century onwards). They include the Ala Kilise (White Church, superb facade), the Bahattin Samanligi Kilisesi (Bahattin's Church with a Granary, scenes in dark colors of the Life of Christ), the Direkli Kilise (Columned Church, pictures of saints and martyrs), the Karagedikli Kilise (trachyte and brick Church of the Black Collar, remains of frescos) and the later Kirkdamalti Kilise (Church under 40 Roofs/St George's Church, endowed between 1283 and 1295 by the Emir Basileios and his wife). The latter church is proof that even towards the end of the 13th century there was still a Christian community here, though by then the area was part of the Seljuk Sultanate of Konya. In the 19th century more churches were hollowed out of the cliffs by the Greeks.
Up until 1921/22 there remained a considerable Greek minority in Gelveri, a village also known as Sivrihisar Geçidi (Sivrihisar Pass). As a result several well preserved churches have survived. One of them, below a cliff honeycombed with rock sanctuaries, was dedicated to Saint Gregory of Nazianz, reputedly born here in 328. It was converted to a mosque in 1896. Enthroned on a rock pyramid southwest of the village is a handsome monastery, the Yüksek Kilise (High Church).
South of the village of Helvadere (Valley of Turkish Honey), at the northern foot of Hasan Dag about 45km/28mi southeast of Aksaray, the ruins of a monastery lie hidden in a volcanic crater, access to which is via a narrow cleft in the rock. Known as "Viransehir" (Destroyed City), there are other remains also, including those of a Byzantine fortress and two fine churches - the Kara Kilise (Black Church), a single-aisled basilica, and the cruciform Kemerli Kilise (Arcaded Church) constructed out of uniform blocks of trachyte.
A large number of typical Cappadocian-style rock-cut churches are found grouped around the village of Ihlara at the southern end of the Peristrema gorge. Most were decorated before the iconoclastic period (eighth and ninth centuries) and, when later paintings are also taken into account, yield an excellent insight into the development of regional Cappadocian church art. The Agaç Alti Kilise (Church under the Tree), the Egri Tas Kilise (Church with the Crooked Stone, scenes of Jesus's youth), the Kokar Kilise (Fragrant Church, scenes from the life of Christ), the Pürenli Seki Kilise (Church with a Terrace) and the Yilanli Kilise (Snake Church, with scenes of Hell) are all examples of this style. The Sümbülü Kilise (Hyacinth Church) provides a contrast with some outstanding Empire-style paintings in the south aisle and a superb facade the articulation of which shows Persian influence.
Below Hasan Dag, between the villages of Selimiye and Ihlara about 40km/25mi southeast of Aksaray, the exceptionally lovely gorge of the Melendiz Suyu, bordered by willows, poplars and cypresses, cuts deep into the Cappadocian tuff. The steep cliffs on either side are a warren of Byzantine rock-cut monasteries and churches, 50 or so in all, access being on foot via hill paths from Ihlara or Belisirma.Two styles of decoration can be distinguished. The Byzantine Empire style predominates in the churches around Belisirma; in those nearer Ihlara the distinctive local Cappadocian-style frescos display Persian and Syrian influence.
The village of Mamasun nestles picturesquely in a narrow defile some 20km/12.5mi east of Aksaray. The tuff cliffs harbor several monasteries hewn in the rock. Köy Ensesi Kilisesi (Village End Church), in the shape of a Greek cross, has carved choir screens and altar as well as fragments of late 10th century frescos depicting the Twelve Apostles and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The village takes its name from a Caesarean (Kayseri) shepherd called Mames whose bones are preserved in the village mosque. He allegedly suffered a martyr's death after converting to Islam.
The Sultanhani was built in the 13th C at the direction of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I. This huge walled complex covers more than 4,866 sq.m / 52,377sq.ft.