Women attacked by serpents, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley
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Women attacked by serpents, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley

Four nude women are attacked by long serpents. Inscriptions describe the sins they represent. The inscription for the first women does not exist, but given the fact that eight serpents besiege her, it is likely she is punished for adultery. The next woman is a mother who has abandoned her offspring; serpents attack her breasts and the caption identifies her as “She who would not feed her child.” The third woman is guilty of calumny and is bitten on the mouth. The fourth woman is punished for disobedience and is bitten on the ear.

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Three painters were involved in the decoration of this church. One painted the cruciform naos, a second painted the barrel-vaulted chamber, and a third painted the north wall of the burial chamber. The painter responsible for the barrel vault worked with red, green, and yellow ochre. He used dark-colored ochre to detail figures. He painted the faces with a brown-black color.

Original Location

Barrel-vaulted chamber, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley.

Specific Location

West end of barrel-vaulted chamber.

Historical Context

Yĭlanlĭ Kilise in the İhlara valley (also known as the valley of Peristrema) is also called “The Church of the Snakes.” Scholars do not know when it was dedicated. The church is composed in two parts. The central section of the church is laid out in a free-cross plan. The church has four barrel-vaulted arms of equal size and depth. The central square has a flat ceiling and a large Greek cross carved upon it in low relief. A tiny window on the south side of the church provides the only source of direct light in the room. The east arm includes an apse. The apse is semi-circular and elevated. Chancel screens enclose the space of the apse. Inside the apse, an alter is placed next to the wall. The apse includes two seats: one to the left of the entrance and the other to the right.

To the west there is an adjacent room with a longitudinal barrel vault. The barrel vaulted room adjoins to a deep burial chamber on the north. The entry to the barrel vaulted room is in the south wall. A rectangular narthex precedes the entry to the barrel-vaulted room.

The program of the church is dedicated to temptation and the consequences for those who yield it. The barrel-vaulted chamber includes scenes of the Last Judgment. These images include a three-headed monster with the body of a serpent, the wicked drowning in the River of Tar and the River of Fire, and four nude women tortured by serpents. Imagery in the church also includes the twenty-four elders of the apocalypse, the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia, the weighing of the souls presided over by St. Michael and the devil, and visions of heaven and hell. Several images of saints, Old Testament figures and angels are also found on the wall, such as St. Anne, Zachary, John the Baptist, Nicholas, Mary the Egyptian, Stephen, Elias, David, and Gabriel. The program has analogies with Coptic and Syrian imagery. This is most likely due to the installation of Greek refuges into the İhlara Valley from the provinces occupied by the Arabs.

The church is not associated with any specific monastery, although monasteries are found in the Peristrema valley. These monasteries include Direkli Kilise Monastery at the top of the Peristrema valley near Belisırma and Karanlık Kale at the bottom of the Peristrema valley near İhlara.

Descriptive Notes

There are considerable parts missing, especially from the Last Judgement scene.

Current Repository

İhlara valley, between İhlara and Belisırma, Cappadocia.

Photo Credit
Candace Weddle
Dina Boero
Image of Women attacked by serpents, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley.