This past June, I visited Cappadocia in central Turkey. It was my second trip to the region, and it certainly won’t be my last, as I have decided to focus on Cappadocian art history in graduate school.
“Why Cappadocia?” I am frequently asked. The best way to answer that question is to start at the beginning (well, at least from the beginning of Christianity).
I first heard the word “Cappadocia” years ago, during the Pentecost readings, where we’re told that men from every nation under heaven, including Cappadocia, were able to understand the words of the Apostles (Acts 2:9). Then, after Pentecost, Cappadocia is mentioned again when Paul visits Philip in Cappadocia during his final evangelizing mission (Acts 21:8-14). We also know that Saint Peter preached in Cappadocia (1 Peter 1:1). So it is clear that Cappadocia was one of the earliest centers of Christianity.
But Cappadocia’s real fame, at least for the majority of Orthodox Christians, comes in the 4th century with the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil of Caeserea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory Nazianzen. The theological writings of the Cappadocian Fathers greatly contributed in forming Christian culture and dogma throughout the empire. For example, they define the trinitarian vocabulary that we still used today (think ousia or hypostasis).
Learning about the Cappadocian Fathers impressed me and piqued my interest in Cappadocian studies, but the further I looked, the more I realized that the entire region of Cappadocia is filled with important history, art, architecture, theology, and anthropology that spans the entire late-Antique and Byzantine periods Continue Reading…