“Not many people come this way” our driver and guide Oscar casually mentioned “Let me talk to the caretaker and we will see what he says”.
Before we arrive, we stop at the side of the road to look at the fields of grapes growing everywhere. They are deep purple and incredibly sweet and are used for making the local wines. Spiraling down, ahead of us I catch sight of a yellow sign with an arrow underneath the words that says “Pancarlik Kilise”.
It’s quite a trek descending the hill, the sun is beating down on us and every drop of water in my body is leaving through my pores . The steps curve cruelly upwards then down again as we continue to make our way. At last we reach a landing that opens into a fairy chimney which gives way to a door and small window with blessed shade from the scorching sun.
Stepping though the doorway, my eyes adjust to the bright light but then as my vision suddenly clears, tears spring to my eyes. Here, where nothing seems to move in the dry air stands a long forgotten church dating back to the end of the 9th century. Inside the darkness, ravaged by time but untouched by nature, Medieval murals tell stories from the Old Testament. The brightly colored compositions play out across the ceiling and walls.
Above my head, the Virgin Mary holds council from the apse of the church over a stone alter, where as recently as 1922, prayers were still offered for penance and blessings. We couldn’t help but notice the scratched out cross pattée on the wall relief, as well as another one on the medallion that the two angels hold above their heads. Many of the faces have been lost as well, either to the ravages of time or man.
Depicted below is the story of the Angel telling Mary of her Immaculate Conception in the Annunciation. The next scene shows Mary and Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) embracing.
Various scenes from the Bible are told, my favorite being Jesus walking across the water to the waiting fishermen holding their nets wide to capture the souls of men.
The ceilings are scattered with medallions dividing each story that appear to be various saints and disciples. The vibrant colors, made from the eggs of pigeons, have not lost their brilliance and the church still stands as an homage to the craftsmen and artisans who lovingly depicted their faith on the walls of their place of worship.
Before I left, I asked for a few moments alone and I knelt in the dust before the remains of the stone alter. I stared at the Virgin Mary and prayed that this sacred place would remain untouched for centuries to come. I also asked for hope in our troubled world and that we would be blessed with peace in our lifetimes. As I crossed myself, I walked away and paused at the doorway. I took a lasting look before stepping outside once again into the brilliant sunlight.
I knew somehow, in my heart, that prayers are sometimes quietly answered in the smallest of ways.