The Virgin and Infant, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley
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The Virgin and Infant, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley

The Virgin and Infant. Draped in a brownish purple maphorion, the Virgin sits on a massive throne which is decorated with studs and pearls and the back of which is slightly curved in the form of a lyre. Very hieratic, she holds the infant in her lap with her hands positioned on his sholders. The two figural are alligned on the same axis in a frontal position.

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Three painters were involved in the decoration of this church. One painted the cruciform naos and apse, a second painted the barrel-vaulted chamber, and a third painted the north wall of the burial chamber. The painter of the naos and apse superimposed dark internal drawing and lines of light on the local color.

Original Location

Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley.

Specific Location

apse, east arm of the cruciform church.

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.

Current Repository

İhlara valley, between İhlara and Belisırma, Cappadocia

Photo Credit
Dina Boero
Dina Boero
Image of The Virgin and Infant, Yĭlanlĭ Kilise, İhlara valley.