Underground city of Saint Mercurius: an underground journey through history

In every corner of Turkey, countless civilizations rose and fell, and the subsoil is no exception. The underground city of Saint-Mercurius, located in the city of Saratlı, in the central province of Aksaray, is one of these wonders. Welcoming a large number of visitors with its fascinating historical and architectural details, the underground city offers visitors an almost mystical journey into history.

Saint Mercurius, who was born in the Cappadocia region during the Roman Empire, was a commander who lived between 225 and 250 AD. After declaring he was a Christian, Mercurius was banished to Cappadocia by the Roman Emperor Decius. Subsequently, the emperor sent his men to the underground city of St. Mercurius and had him executed by beheading. After the time of St. Mercurius, the underground city served as a shelter for the early Christians who fled the pursuits of the Romans in the Cappadocia region.

A view from the exterior entrance to the underground city of Saint Mercurius, in Aksarayi, central Turkey, August 19, 2021. (AA Photo)

Excavations began in the city in 2011 and lasted until 2016. Three floors of the seven-story underground settlement were cleared during this work and opened to tourism. The city attracts attention with its church, its mass graves, its water wells, its stoves on the ground, its dovecotes, its cellars and the roofs of the warehouses.

The underground city is now entered through an inn from the Seljuk period. After entering, visitors access the other floors through corridors and bedrooms.

While underground city churches are generally small, the underground city church of St. Mercurius resembles a cathedral. During excavations, 37 graves composed of children and adults were discovered at the foot 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.

A visitor in the tunnels of the underground city of Saint Mercurius, in Aksarayi, central Turkey, August 19, 2021. (Photo AA)

A visitor in the tunnels of the underground city of Saint Mercurius, in Aksarayi, central Turkey, August 19, 2021. (Photo AA)

There are different types of signs of the cross in the church. It is believed that the church was used in Byzantine times.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Saratlı City Mayor Zeki Türker said that there are many underground cities in the Cappadocia region and the Kırkgöz and Saint Mercurius underground cities are located in their city. “In the underground city, there are living spaces like a kitchen, a drinking water well, tombs and a church. There are also 37 tombs 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 received a record number of tourists, the city’s mayor continued, “It is visited by around 100,000 to 200,000 people per day. Usually our guests come from Russia and Ukraine.

A visitor in the tunnels of the underground city of Saint Mercurius, in Aksarayi, central Turkey, August 19, 2021. (Photo AA)

A visitor in the tunnels of the underground city of Saint Mercurius, in Aksarayi, central Turkey, August 19, 2021. (Photo AA)

Russian tourist Nikolai Ribokov, one of the visitors to the underground city, said that he had come to the Cappadocia region and had the chance to visit the underground city of Saint Mercurius during this trip. Stating that he considered the engineering of the underground city to be very successful, Ribokov added, “It is an underground city with extremely detailed architecture. These historic places in Turkey attract us. I took a lot of photos and will share them on social media.

Polish tourist Piotr Yabboski 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 entered the Underground City, it felt like I entered a different world. I have been in Turkey for four days. I saw a lot of beautiful places, but I fell in love with this underground city.

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About Ariella McGuire

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