In the town of Çıplaklı in Oba near Alanya Castle on the southern coast of Turkey (See: Map), there is a single-naved chapel with highly-interesting non-figuradve wall paintings. This small building is so-called “Resimli Kilise" (Painted Church) by the inhabitants of the region.
The chapel is abandoned and "ruined" a large part of its vault. It is currendy in danger of complete collapse due to urban renewal acdvides initiated in the vicinity especially because of the heaps of the earth and stone accumulated from the excavation of the new construction’s foundations. Red oil paint has been applied on some parts of the wall paintings and some diggings were made inside. It is necessary to take immethate action for conservation and structural reinforcement to prevent the building from deteriorating any further.
ARCHITECTURE AND WALL PAINTINGS
The chapel is oriented to the east-west direction. It has an irregular rectangular plan, measuring 5,36 x 1,31 in. on the exterior and 3,57 x 2,10 tn. on the interior (fig.l-pl.l). The nave is covered by a barrel-vault which is 2,90 m. in height and 0,35m. thick. The semi-circular apse is framed with a rectangular wall structure on the outside. On the inside of northern wall, there is a small round-arched niche. There are two round- arched windows - one on the east end of the apse and another one the south wall. The door is situated on the western façade, but is so ruined (fig. 2-3).
The chapel’s walls and its barrel-vault are covered with non-figurative wall paintings starting from ground level. The paintings on the north and west walls are now extensively destroyed. However, the wall paintings on the surface of the apse, vault and south wall are in a better condition that enables us to recognize the contents to a great extent (fig. 4).
A large cross (Crux gemmata) is painted within a medallion in the half-dome of the apse. This composition is outlined in purple red on a light beige background. The arms of the cross are decorated with precious stone and pearl-drop motives (fig. 5). The medallion is outlined in blue on the inside and in purple red on the outside. Between them, there is a stylized pattern, which is difficult to determine. On the light beige background of the medallion, purple red lines are rathating between the cross-arms emanating like sun rays (fig.6).
Around the medallion on the surface of the apse is covered with a geometric composition that has a two dimensional effect and is delineated in purple red, blue and light beige colours. The pattern arranged symmetrically on the two sides of the window delineates an eight-cornered stat by two superimposed squares. Bands of double lines create knotting motives and circles in and around these squares (fig.7). On both sides of the apse-niche are symmetrically placed interlocking sparse circles arranged in vertical bands and acting as the pseudo-columns of the apse-arch. On the semi-circular apse-arch, three bands coloured in purple red outline the surface. A geometric composition with two-dimensional effect is repeated on the inner band. The middle and outer bands include inscriptions.
On the intrados of the arch in the upper row, the remains of “...A Ω _ OC…O...” letters measuring 5 cm. and on the middle row “...X _ A C _A E T Ï N O _ O..." letters measuring of 8 cm. are to be seen. The inscription is written on a beige background, the letters are worn out (fig. 8- 9).
The drawings on the south wall consist of six square panels on the bottom and font rectangular panels on the upper part extend to the vault. The latter are arranged upright, with one on the east and three on the west side of the window. The bands that encircle the lower part of each panel are decorated with wavy lines in purple red on a beige background. The inner surfaces of these panels are filled with a design that imitates marble and is drawn on a beige background (fig. 10).
The four rectangular panels have frames in purple red. Each one has a Latin cross (Crux gemmata) at the center. The floral motives extending from the lower parts of the arms of the cross symbolize the so-called "living cross" in Byzantine iconography. The tips of the arms on all of the crosses are decorated with a string of pearls and their inner surfaces are filled with representations of precious stones. Each of these panels has an adornment band in the form of a broken arch with wavy lines at the top (fig. 11).
On the south wall, the panel on the east of the window, which is in du¬llest condidon, is decorated with a brown cross, outlined in black on a beige background. The inner surface of this brown cross is decorated with pearl drops and precious stones. There are floral motives springing from the lower ends of the cross (fig. 12).
The second, third and fourth crosses are deteriorated but what remains resembles the first cross. The only difference is the remains of some of the letters above the lateral arms of the crosses in the second and the third panels.
These remains of letters are “..A M...” in the upper row and “...N C...” in lower row of the second and “...N T...” on the third panels. Each of these letters measured 5,5 cm (fig. 13-14-15). The lower part of the window between the panels is decorated with a grid pattern outlined in purple red. The inner surface of the window is decorated with purple red lines.
The paintings on the north wall are deterioriated. However, there are weak signs indicating floral motives reminiscent to the crosses on the south wall, a broken arch form and a panel imitating marble. Furthermore there are also traces of letters which are no longer legible (fig. 16-17). The decoration around the niche is unclear. On the two sides of the door on the west wall, there are also traces of imitating marble panels.
Symmetric, closed joints form the cross that completely covers the surface of the vault. It is painted with black contours and decorated with representations of white pearls. The thick band of interlocking sparse circles frames the skirt of the vault (fig. 18). Between the arms of the cross on the rectangular surfaces there are twelve lobed rosettes outlined in black (fig- 19).
Small chapels like the Oba Chapel, which are typically rubble-stone structures built on a rectangular plan, single nave, and covered with vault in observance of local traditions, are a group of structures commonly encountered in Anatolia, Greece and the Aegean islands. However, such types of structures have not yet sufficiently been the subject of in-depth scientific studies. It is common knowledge that some of the single nave chapels to be discussed in this group are sometimes built into an older and ruined basilica. Indeed, E.Rosenbaum has found that an example of this type had been found in Selinus in the Cilicia region. A similar observation has also been made for chapels in Paros. O. Feld reports that all of the three chapels on the island are built on early basilicas. R.M. Harrison has also found that there existed a small chapel in Lycia region, Sura built in a church in the late period.
On the other hand, there are other examples like the Oba Chapel built singularly on simple and local architectural traditions. This group of chapels can be given many examples from Pontus, Cilicia, Myra-Lagune, Kyenai, Greece, and the Aegean islands. Despite controversy about their building dates, some single-naved “military chapels" identified by R.W. Edwards in the Cilicia region are, undoubtedly, examples within the coverage of this group.
Generally attributed to the Byzantine Era, there is controversy on which period such structures actually belong. Although, considering the simple constructions and decorations of these small and unpretentious buildings, one thinks that they are built in Middle Byzantine or towards the ends of Byzantine era, some other comments at e also heard saying that they might belong to a later time. Indeed, A.Orlandos believes that the single-naved chapels in Paros are built in the late period (17-18th centuries). There are claims that some single-naved chapels in the Black Sea region are built under the Ottoman rule and in the 19th century.
This reveals that such group of structures including the Oba Chapel has great uncertainties with regards dating. One can especially claim that such uncertainties also exist about the interior walls of buildings.
As commonly known, some examples such as Oba Chapel with non- figural wall paintings are generally associated with the iconoclastic period. However, the relationship of such wall paintings seen in many structures in Crete, Naxos, Cilicia, Cherson, Georgia, Greece, Turkish Thrace and Anatolia and sometimes discussed under the title of “aniconic decoration problem" with the iconoclastic period is still a controversial topic. However, it is also known that such wall paintings are, from a stylistic point of view, different from those in Greece and Cappadocia. Perhaps due to this reason, after considering the wall paintings in Naxos churches, Dimitrokallis is convinced that structures with aniconic decoration in Greece, Aegean Islands, Anatolia and Cappadocia should be reviewed. Osterhaut also reports that the dates proposed for examples accepted as belonging to this period are unreliable. As a matter of fact, the date proposed for the wall paintings of Antalya-Chimera church in Yanartaş has not been accepted by Hellenkemper-Hild, with claims that the kreuzblumen, cross decorations and horizontal tile examples on wall paintings might have been built in later times, such as the 17-18th centuries.
All such information demonstrates how major a problematic is the dating of Oba Chape) although it is included in the group of single-naved structures and it has a similar decoration.
Actually, considering the stone masonry used in Oba Chapel as well as its single nave and simple plan with a barrel vault, meaningful analogical connections may be established with chapels in the near vicinity in Alanya, lotape and Cilicia, and even with sole architectural examples claimed to belong to the Byzantine Era in the Black Sea region; however, on the other hand, it has to be assumed that simple structures with such plans and not requiring too much architectural knowledge and skills, which may therefore be built also by those living in rural areas out of city centers, might have been made in subsequent periods rather than during the Byzantine Era. However, after the Byzantine Era, historical, social and archaeological data with regards the buildings of Christian population in Anatolia during the late Ottoman period and their repairs or modifications are not yet been the subjects of a systematic study, except for Istanbul and Cappadocia.
One can say that the wall paintings in Oba Chapel contains many decorations and compositions encountered in many structures starting from early Christian-Byzantine Era until the late periods. It is remarkable that no figures are used in wall paintings. Though there are script remains among them, from an epigraphically, it is not possible to make meaning out of them. In return, considering the said script remains, it has been possible to conclude that they may not belong to a date earlier than the 11th century.
Although looking at the “crux gemmata" included in the wall painting program of the Chapel, one can date the building back to the 11-12th centuries comparing it with similar structures in Launos-Gökkaya and Yanartaş-Chimera in the same region, considering the political history of the Byzantine Era, it may be claimed, conjecturally, that this may not be quite possible.
Likewise, post-10th century Byzantine Era history of the Byzantine Kalonoros (today's Alanya) where the Chapel is located and its vicinity remains to be uncertain. Actually, it is also a controversial issue whether or not there was a Byzantine rule in the region after the 10th century. Indeed, Byzantine coins found in archaeological excavations in Alanya Castle date back as far as the rule of Leo VI (886-912). This demonstrates that the Byzantine rule in this part of the region (east of Pamfilia) has terminated latest during the early 10th century. The situation of Alanya and environs during the 11-12th centuries is dark. Perhaps, during this two-century period, it had the same fate with Sattalia (today’s Antalya), one of the most important ports of Byzantium located to its immediate west. As a matter of fact, Sattalia has also been the subject of a continuous military and political struggle between the Byzantium and the Turks since the 11th century when the central audiority of the Empire started to disappear; and not only this city but also the southern shores of Anatolia has transformed into an insecure region. Compared to a “fire spot" by İdrisî, claims exists that Sattalia was a place of ruins during the 11th century. Such a comparison may also be made for the Byzantine Kalonoros. If this can be verified, one can say that the city was to a great extend abandoned during these ages, with a smaller population left in the city. From Islamic and Armenian sources, one can say that the chaos caused by the epidemics has a major role in it as well as the earthquakes that have occurred in the Mediterranean coastal line starting from the 11th century.
In this regard, it is rather high to date the structure looking at its architecture and interior wall paintings. It is but possible to enlighten this doubt and hesitation to a certain extent.
As it is known, Christian history of Anatolia is mostly limited to the Byzantine Era; and except for those built in Istanbul, Cappadocia or Trabzon (Pontus), not too much focus has been put on local architectural techniques and the traditions of the art of painting during the Ottoman era starting from the 16th century in rural Anatolia but mainly until the end of 19th century (even until the exchange in 1922). However, as it is known, Anatolia also has a Christian history and art, which has continued under Ottoman rule.
On the other hand, although almost all of the wall paintings frequently seen mainly in Alanya and in the near vicinity, it is surprising that the examples in Oba Chapel still survive; this cannot be associated with the fact that they were secluded for centuries. Again, considering the destructions in the Chapel after 10 years after its registration, it is possible to say that a structure that has been built during the Byzantine Era should have not reached today in such an intact state despite the centuries in between and in a settlement that has been continuously inhabited since the Seljuk Era. However, although it belongs to the Byzantine Era, this does not mean that the structure has never functioned during the late periods or the structure has not been interfered. In this regard, one may claim that many settlements and structures in the near vicinity survived because they continued to be used during late periods or were already built during late periods. Some written memoirs left behind by the Christian population who have left here during the exchange are clear indications that Alanya Castle and many structures in its environs were used by them at that time. It is known that some members of the Christian population of Alanya held some functions in the local government until the exchange in 1922.
With this at hand, although there is insufficient archaeological and historical data, it also has to be taken into account that Oba Chapel might have been built in a late period and during the Ottoman Era.
If we can fully perceive the art language formed, perhaps creating regional differences and styles in parallel with the period's fashion, by local architectural traditions and some iconographie memoirs on the Christian population of Anatolia, we can place architectural phenomena like Oba Chapel into a more historical frame. It is expected that systematic surveys to be conducted in this region of Turkey shall reveal the memoirs of near ages more realistically, with deviating to some implied adoptions and stipulations. 2004
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