BY DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL NOV 28, 2022 –
Cabir Coşkuner inherited an unusual property from his grandfather: a 1,700-year-old monastery. The property is nothing out of place in Cappadocia, a historic Turkish region dotted with early Christian structures. But Coşkuner, a Muslim, stands out as a volunteer who devoted his life to the preservation of the ancient building.
The 65 years old resident of Ürgüp, a historic town in the central Turkish province of Nevşehir better known for its volcanic rock formation “fairy chimneys,” dedicates his days to keep the monastery clean and telling visitors about its history. With the aid of his wife Ayşe, Coşkuner serves visitors coming to the monastery located inside the orchard his grandfather purchased in 1935.
Little is known about “Keşlik Monastery” but it mostly remains intact. Coşkuner, who retired as a hotel staff member in 2001, proudly tells its history in English, French and Italian he learned from tourists to the popular touristic region where he once served as a tour guide.
His grandfather was among the bidders for the land where the monastery was located, when the state decided to sell the plots surrounding it. He bought the right to cultivate crops in an area surrounding the monastery. The monastery has long been unused and only in recent years it was opened to tourism, and last year was restored by the local governorate.
Coşkuner said the monastery was named “Keşlik,” which means the place where monks live or are trained in the local dialect. He said the monastery was carved into rocks, an architectural tradition in the area in the third century A.D., and was home to two separate churches whose frescoes date back to the ninth century. The monastery’s mess hall, rooms of monks and abbey, kitchen, seminary and other sections survived for centuries.
He told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday that he was working to keep the monastery alive so that future generations may learn about its historical value. “We want everyone to see it. In the summer, we put tables in the courtyard and deliver fruits we grow in our orchard to visitors for free. They have as much right to this place as we do,” he said. They receive fewer visitors in autumn and winter as most tourists visit Cappadocia in the spring and summer and Coşkuner keeps it locked at these times, though he unlocks it for visitors whenever he is asked. “Frescoes were damaged in the past and people are more sensitive these days but we still have to make sure that it is safe,” he said.