Sitting high up on the side of a mountain, at an altitude of some 600 meters above sea level, the Monastery of Kursunlu is believed to be a Byzantine orthodox monastery built as a direct consequence of a huge influx of early Christians into the region during the Byzantine period.
It was the same mass immigration that ultimately led to this part of Turkey becoming an eminent centre for religious education during a time of considerable upheaval in which rival factions jostled and fought for position in the rapidly evolving political and religious world of the time.
Fortunately, the monastery had been built in an ideal location for the Christian monks to escape from any potential religious persecution and to shield themselves against the likelihood of attacks from rival Christian sects and pagan non-believers.
Enjoying spectacular views over the towns of Kusadasi and Davutlar, the monastery is nestled among a dense tangle of overgrown trees and plants and is consequently almost hidden from view.
The building itself consists of a refectory, kitchen, cellar and ‘cellular’ bedrooms for the monks, along with an infirmary, a small, domed chapel and a separate area for burials, called a necropolis.
The chapel ceiling is an important feature, decorated as it is with early geometrical frescoes typical of the first iconoclastic period of the 8th century, during which time images of religious characters were banned and sometimes even deliberately destroyed.
At the same time, there are other equally symbolic frescoes that clearly represent important religious events and personalities, proving that they belonged to the second half of the 9th century, known as the post-iconoclastic period. Painted either on a wash or directly onto the walls, these later frescoes were based upon the life and work of Christ and feature various scenes taken directly from the gospels.
Sadly now in a serious state of disrepair due to damage inflicted by tree branches and roots, as well as the winds and the weather, the monastery is nevertheless still worth seeing as it is considered to be the second most important ancient Christian building in Aydın province, behind the Stylos Arapavlusu Monastery in the nearby Beşparmak Mountains.
A visit to the monastery makes for an interesting diversion while on holiday at CLC Kusadasi Golf & Spa resort.
Probably best reached by car, or as part of an organised jeep safari, the site is off km12 on the road between Davutlar and Soke, some 20 minutes’ drive from the resort.