In every corner of Turkey countless civilizations have risen and fallen, and the underground is no exception. The underground city of St. Mercurius, located in central Aksaray province’s Saratlı town, is one such marvel. Hosting a high number of visitors with its fascinating historical and architectural details, the underground city provides an almost mystical trip in history for visitors.
St. Mercurius, who was born in the Cappadocia region during the Roman Empire, was a commander who lived between A.D. 225 and 250. After declaring he was a Christian, Mercurius was banished to Cappadocia by Roman Emperor Decius. Subsequently, the emperor sent his men to the underground city of St. Mercurius and had him executed by decapitation. After the time of St. Mercurius, the underground city served as a shelter for early Christians who were running away from the prosecutions of the Romans in the Cappadocia region.
The excavations started in the city in 2011 and ran until 2016. Three floors of the seven-story underground settlement have been cleaned during this work and opened to tourism. The city attracts attention with its church, mass graves, water wells, floor furnaces, pigeon houses, cellars and warehouse roofs.
The underground city is now entered through an inn from the Seljuk period. After entering, visitors access other floors through corridors and chambers.
While the churches in the underground cities are generally small, the church of the St. Mercurius underground city resembles a cathedral. During the excavations, 37 graves consisting of children and adults were found at the base of the church. In one of the tombs inside the church, a man and a woman were placed one above the other in the same sarcophagus.
There are various types of cross signs in the church. It is thought that the church was used in the Byzantine era.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Saratlı Town Mayor Zeki Türker said that there are many underground cities in the Cappadocia region, and the underground cities Kırkgöz and Saint Mercurius are located in their town. “In the underground city, there are living spaces such as a kitchen, a drinking water well, tombs and a church. There are also 37 graves in the underground city, which attracts a lot of tourists to the city. In the past, many people could live up to six months without leaving this underground city.”
Noting that the underground city has been hosting a record number of tourists, the town mayor continued: “It is visited by approximately 100,000-200,000 people in a day. Usually, our guests come from Russia and Ukraine.”
Russian tourist Nikolai Ribokov, one of the visitors of the underground city, said that he came to the Cappadocia region and had a chance to visit the underground city of St. Mercurius during this trip. Stating that he considered the engineering of the underground city very successful, Ribokov added: “This is an underground city with extremely detailed architecture. Such historical places in Turkey attract us. I took a lot of photos and will share them on social media.”
Polish tourist Piotr Yabboiski also said that he visited the Cappadocia region and liked it very much.
"The city has a unique atmosphere. We saw many different places from the church to the stables. When I first stepped into the underground city, I felt like I entered a different world. I've been in Turkey for four days. I've seen many beautiful places. However, I fell in love with this underground city.”
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