Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Writing on Icons

Visiting many Orthodox churches and monasteries in Cappadocia, located in the centre of modern day Turkey, one comes across some magnificent icons, following a unique school of iconography, not evident in any other part of the Orthodox world.

However, most churches and monasteries have been vandalised for centuries. Some churches have no icons, others have the eyes crossed out and many wrote on the icons, either names, dates, or even events. The writing, found in the Cappadocian churches, are in both Greek and Turkish. This is an interesting reality. So are we to understand that the Greeks, together with the Turks – Muslims, wished to vandalise the Orthodox churches in the area?

This was my initial thought. However, my good friend Lambros Psomas pointed out another understanding of this reality. A church was and is an important building within the local community. Percentage wise, a church is more likely to exist for longer, in comparison to a house or a public building. Therefore, someone who wished to maintain a historical event or a significant name, they would write it, or carve it, in a church. It is unfortunate that they chose to do this on icons. But, in some cases that is how events were known for future generations. Therefore, this opens up a new reality for us. Maybe we need to undergo further research on this writings and carvings to identify their significance for us today. Some, I’m sure, are irrelevant and followed a vandalising tradition of the unbelievers towards the Orthodox churches. Nevertheless, maybe they have something to tell us, which we have yet to understand and research. 


  1. Hi Demetri,

    Very nice article. Do you know if the churches in the Cappadocian region are still active?
    Are there still orthodox communities there?

    Best regards,
    Stefan (from Romania)

  2. Dear Stefan,

    Thank you for your comment. The Churches in Cappadocia are not active. Most of them are museums now, some are left without any care. When I visited with a group we celebrated the Liturgy twice, but in a village church. I doubt if there are any Orthodox Christians living in Cappadocia. Where you do find Orthodox communities is in Constantinople, the Pontos region (North Turkey) and I am guessing on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, for example Smyrna (Izmir).

    Kind Regards