In the soft volcanic rock of Cappadocia, eroded by wind and water into fantastic shapes, ancient peoples carved dwelling places. By the Byzantine era, locals created vast underground refuges: places to hide from raiders and foreign armies. They painted murals on rock-cut churches, exemplars of medieval Roman religious art.
In the 8th century, this art, both here and around the empire, became the centerpiece of a spirited controversy: iconoclasm. Some, particularly the emperors Leo III and Constantine V, believed that people's venerating religious art was causing God to forsake the empire. Others disagreed. The argument would have far-reaching consequences for the empire and for history.
Iconoclasm initially ended under the guidance of Irene, the first ruling Empress in Roman history. She was ruthlessly efficient, as seen by her treatment of her son. She's one bad mother....
Listeners Krister and Jacob Törneke come by to discuss visiting Cappadocia, where cave churches and underground cities should the mark of the medieval Byzantines and where the natural landscape inspires jaw-dropping amazement.
Plus, they talk about the Cappadocian Turkish food, including ayran, a salty yogurt drink that goes perfectly with meat kebabs, even if it sounds repulsive.
Brownworth, Lars. Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization
Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner
Herrin, Judith. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
Lonely Planet Turkey
Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: the Early Centuries
Treadgold, Warren. A Concise History of Byzantium
Photograph by Gerardo Lazzari