The study of the rock-cut churches of Cappadocia has generally focused on painted churches to the neglect of the extensive complexes that surround them. Lyn Rodley's systematic survey of over two dozen of the most important ensembles is an exception (Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia [Cambridge, 1985]). Her monastic interpretation of the sites, however, is open to question. An examination of the planning of many of the Cappadocian complexes reveals a layout much more like that of a spacious and well-organized mansion than a monastery. Typically an inverted T-configuration governs the nucleus of the plan. The vertical of the T is the principal hall of the ensemble; the crossbar is the transverse entrance hall that precedes it and that opens onto the courtyard in front of it. This nucleus is developed with rooms placed right and left, often symmetrically. The church may be somewhat removed from the nucleus or even omitted altogether. This distinctive plan enjoyed a wide popularity in domestic architecture in Islamic lands, and its development in Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, and Spain demonstrates its wide flexibility. The use of the T-plan in the mansions of Cappadocia gives us a precious insight into the life style of the great landowners of Anatolia and their cosmopolitan, if not frankly Islamic, tastes. The mansions of Cappadocia fill a very conspicuous gap in Middle Byzantine architectural history.
- Copyright 1997 The Society of Architectural Historians