Monday, December 13, 2010

Pigeon houses

For a time cave churches flourished, then they were abandoned and religious Chrisitian activity stopped. No one really knew why and the exact date. Most likely it ocurred after the fall of the Byzantine empire and the establishment of the Ottoman empire. While it was predominantly Christian, now Muslims moved in and for a long time Christians and Muslims existed peacefully together. What changed was, this area is close to Cilician Armenia and the ancient areas where the Armenians lived. During the Armenian Genocide, all the towns were emptied of Armenians. They were slaughtered or driven out to the deserts of the south where a lot perished. Then came the Greek-Turkish population exchange and for some reason, even though the initial argument was to exempt Cappadocia, the Greek speaking Christians was to leave Cappadocia. These were descendants of the Byzantine empire, they've never been to Greece but they had to abandon their homes, their churches and everything and move to Greece. The Muslims from Greece and the surrounding areas moved into Cappadocia and occupy these homes that once belonged to Greek speaking Christians. That is how a lot of Muslims are living in houses that have Christian churches in them.
A lot of the cave churches were walled in and turned into pigeon houses. Back in the day before chemical fertilisers, pigeon poop was being used to fertilise the crops. Christians would never turn their churches into pigeon houses. The pigeons live in these caves and every year, someone would climb into them to collect the poop. There were a lot of pigeons then. The skies would be darkened when one should clap in the valleys, the pigeons would all fly out and the skies would turn dark. We did clap when we hiked in those valleys but only a handful of pigeons were seen flying. Today we still see the pigeon houses but no one collects pigeon poop any more.

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