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BİNBİRKİLİSE (MADENŞEHRİ, ÜÇKUYU, DEĞLE)

1001 Churches

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If you're staying in Karaman you might want to drive out northwest toward the village of Madenşehri on the slopes of Karadağı (the Black Mountain) in search of a collection of romantic ruins standing in splendid isolation  and called in a fine piece of hyperbole Binbirkilise (1001 Churches).

As you near the old, largely abandoned village you'll see the remains of a huge 5th-century church, and a structure that looks like an enormous free-standing apse, its exact purpose unclear.

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The road continues past Madenşehri until it arrives eventually at Üçkuyu, also known as Değle or Binbirkilise. Fear not -- despite the name there are not actually 1,001 churches here, although the ruins are so intermingled with each other and with the surrounding houses (built, in any case, out of stones from the churches) that it's impossible to say exactly how many there are.

 

It's a wonderfully romantic spot, still completely unspoilt, that you will probably share only with the birds and the tortoises although in 2015 Karaman Museum was working to clear accumulated soil from inside the churches, partly for research purposes but partly to prepare them for more visitors. That, too, is said to be why most residents of Madenşehri have been relocated to homes in a new village nearby. 

200 DSC00481Amidst the ruins of the churches there was once a mosque but this too has now fallen into graffitied disrepair. There are also remains of many graves, some carved into the rock, others formed from stones. One ancient sarcophagus still has carvings on its side that are easier to see once water has been poured on them. 

 

There are many other ruins on the hillside, including those of several castles and a Roman pool. A sign also points 5km uphill to a volcanic crater although my driver assured me that you needed advance permission from Karaman to visit it. 

The doughty British traveller, Gertrude Bell, mapped out all the buildings here early in the 20th century.

Sleeping and eating

There is nowhere to stay here, nor is there a shop, so bring water and snacks with you.

Transport info

Without your own car you will need to hire a taxi in Karaman to make the 42km journey. Locals know the route well.

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