Doves are the symbol of
peace and devotion to family in Islam whereas regarded as a symbol of the
"Holy Spirit" in Christianity.
Dove-cotes, hollowed out
into the upper parts of almost all the valleys and fairy chimneys, generally
face east or south sides of the valleys. Since doves are in need of water
to digest the grains they have already stocked in their craws, they are
also named "the guarding birds of the fountains". For this reason dove-cotes
were hollowed out near the water sources.
Although most of the dove-cotes
in the region of Cappadocia date back to the end of the 19th and the beginning
of the 20th centuries, there are few examples dating to the 18th century.
These small buildings do not attract our attention much but are important
in terms of showing us Islamic painting art which is rarely found in Cappadocia
The reason behind hollowing
out dove-cotes was not to catch and eat pigeons but to use their excrement
as fertilizer. The local farmers used pigeon droppings as fertilizers for
generations, and for this reason, a great number of dove-cotes were hollowed
While hollowing dove-cotes,
small niches or recesses were carved into 4 or 5 rows for pigeons to land
on, on the three walls of a 5-10 square meter room and when needed wooden
perches were also put across the room. This can easily be observed with
some of the dove-cotes the facades of which are collapsed. Since
dove-cotes were hollowed out high up into the cliffs, access can be gained
either through a hollowed out tunnel or by a ladder.
Another type of dove-cotes
is the ones that were originally hollowed out as churches or monasteries
and by closing up the entrances and the windows, they were changed into
dove-cotes. Some of the best examples for this type are the Cavusin (Nicephorus
Phocas) Church near Cavusin, the Kiliclar Kusuk Church (of Mother Mary)
in Goreme and some churches in the valley of Karsibucak. We owe the
well preserved frescoes of churches used as dove-cotes to pigeons, because
in this way frescoes were not exposed to the sun light and were protected
from people, since farmers go into the dove-cotes only once a year and
leave the place rebuilding the wall.
The facades of the dove-cotes
were generally embellished in accordance with the tradition of the time
and in harmony with the social life; the dyes used were extracted from
trees, flowers, wild grass and soil with ferrous oxide. In addition
to this, the red dye, widely used in decorating dove-cotes, was extracted
from a kind of soil/mud known as "Yosa" in the region.
According to locals, the
white paint is made by mixing plaster and white of an egg, therefore, animals;
such as martens and foxes, find it difficult to climb up to dove-cotes
to get pigeons and eggs. However, with most of the dove-cotes on the west
side of the Uchisar castle, a simpler method, trinplate or zinc plates
In the motifs with dove-cotes
decorated with multi-colors, feelings, thoughts and creativity of the local
artists are hidden. A research done with more than one hundred motifs shows
that Cappadocian artists, lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, preferred
motifs that are simple but also mystical. The motif of wheel of fortune,
that can be seen on both sides of almost all the dove-cotes found in the
valleys of Goreme, Cavusin and Zelve, is one of the oldest Anatolian motifs.
Although in the past it was
the symbol of four gods of wind, it now symbolizes the world going round,
the destiny changing and the circle of fate and love. The motifs of tree
of life with a bird and a pomegranate are as widely used as the motifs
of wheel of fortune. The tree of life, originating from Shaman beliefs,
symbolize the way to the other (spiritual) world and the birds on it are
the craetures guarding the tree and one's company during the journey. Pomegranate,
symbolizing heaven, abundance and fertility, has been regarded as a holy
fruit through the history. It also indicates that a marriage will last
long, family will become rich and have many children who will have long
lives. Besides the motifs mentioned above, inscriptions written in Old
Turkish are also found at the dove cove. Those inscriptions generally bare
the date when the dove cove was built, words of "Masallah" and "Allah"
and though very seldom the name and the occupation of the owner. In the
region of Cappadocia, the dove-cotes are mainly found in the valleys near
Uchisar, Kiliclar and Güllüdere valleys of Goreme, in the Uzengi
valley of Ürgüp, in Balkanderesi and the valley of Kizilcukur
of Ortahisar, and in the valley of Cat near Nevsehir end in the Soganli?
Valley in the province of Kayseri.