Cappadocia's most celebrated attraction is the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a vast monastic complex with richly painted cave-churches first carved by Orthodox monks beginning in the seventh century. Along with rectories, dwellings, and a religious school, the monks constructeded a large monastic complex carved out of a roughly ring-shaped rock formation and decorated it with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. The site contains the region’s best collection of painted cave-churches, and the frescoes’ colors still retain all their original freshness.
There are many churches and chapels in Göreme Open-Air Museum, but the most important include: The Nunner, Saint Barbara Chapel, Apple Church, Saint Basil Church, Snake Church, Dark Church, Sandal Church, Saint Catherine Chapelm, and Buckle Church. The stunning, fresco-filled Dark Church (Karanlık Kilise) is the most famous of the Open-Air Museum's churches, taking its name from the fact that it originally had very few windows. Luckily, this lack of light preserved the vivid colour of the frescoes that show, among other things, Christ as Pantocrator, Christ on the Cross, and the Betrayal by Judas. Buckle Church (Tokalı Kilise) is one of Göreme's biggest and finest, with an underground chapel and recently restored frescoes painted in a narrative (rather than liturgical) cycle. Most church interiors are fully painted with stunning Byzantine murals dating back as early as the ninth century. Many have been damaged by wind, water, weather, earthquake, and the occasional shepherd boy seeking refuge who had been taught that images were sinful. Yet the beauty of the churches and their decoration still remains, and the Goreme Open-Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.