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Alahan Monastery

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Title: Alahan Monastery  
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Alahan Monastery

Eastern Church

The Alahan Monastery, Koja Kalessi,[1] is a one hour walking distance from the village of Geçimli, located in the province of Mersin, Turkey. The site is being considered to be put on the World Heritage list of sites who have "outstanding universal value" to the world.[2]

In 2012, Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Mersin Governorship started restoration work on the site because of its history and heritage.

On May 29, 2012 Greek Patriarch Bartholomew visited the monastery.


The Christian monastery at Alahan is located in the mountains of Isauria in Southern Asia Minor near Mut on the road between Karaman and Silifke. Residing at an altitude of 4,000ft, it stands 3,000 ft over the Calycadnus valley.[1] Construction started during the second half of the fifth century under Emperor Leo I and was finished by Emperor Zeno,[3] yet by the seventh century it was abandoned. Its remains include two churches, one (The East Church) is extremely well preserved, a baptistery, a colonnaded runway running the full length of the site, and a couple of subsidiary buildings, plus some old caves and graves. The complex may be funded by Emperor Zeno (474-491), who was from the region. The buildings stretches along the side of the mountain and covers an area of 30x200 meters. It is quite possible that the monastery official, and monks lived in the houses surrounding the complex. The monastery stands as the finest achievement of native Isaurian stonemasons and sculptors. Alahan is a key site in the history of early Byzantine architecture, half a century before the great achievements of Anicia Juliana and Justinian in Constantinople.[4]


The Ottoman traveler, Evliya Çelebi, visited the monastery in 1671-72 and his account recorded his amazement along with his recommendation that, "This is something that deserves a visit."[5] The first European visitor Count Leon de Laborde who arrived in 1826 was enthusiastic but inaccurate in his written accounts of the monastery.[5] This was followed by the English cleric, A.C. Headlam, who wrote an exhaustive article which gives meticulous detail to the monastic complex as well as the church located at the east end.[5] Headlam postulated that Alahan may be a known as the Byzantine monastery Apadna, which was restored during Justinians reign, however, Michael Gough states Alahan shows no signs of restoration to support this premise.[6]

World Heritage Status

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on February 25, 2000 in the Cultural category.


  1. ^ a b Some Recent Finds at Alahan (Koja Kalessi), Michael Gough, Anatolian Studies, Vol. 5, (1955), 115. JSTOR
  2. ^ World Heritage Center: The Criteria for Selection
  3. ^ The Emperor Zeno and Some Cilician Churches, Michael Gough, Anatolian Studies, Vol. 22, Special Number in Honour of the Seventieth Birthday of Professor Seton Lloyd (1972), 201.JSTOR
  4. ^ Alahan- An Early Christian Monastery in Southern Turkey Pictures: [1]
  5. ^ a b c Alahan Monastery and its Setting in the Isaurian country Side, Michael Gough, Alahan: An Early Christian Monastery in Southern Turkey, ed. Mary Gough, (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1985), 4.
  6. ^ Some Recent Finds at Alahan (Koja Kalessi), Michael Gough, Anatolian Studies, 119.


  • Alahan Monastery - UNESCO World Heritage Centre Accessed 2009-02-25.
  • Gough, M. (1985), Alahan: an early Christian monastery in southern Turkey : based on the work of Michael Gough, PIMS. ISBN 0-88844-073-1

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