Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Medieval Cappadocian dungeon design!

Archaeology and real-world architecture is always super inspiring. But one of the problem is that real-world architecture, unlike fantasy dungeons, is often linear and too simple. Not enough weird interconnections to really make dungeon exploration interesting! I posted about this in the early days of this blog.

Well, this Cappadocian rock-cut monastery at Selime Kalesi is a non-linear dream!


The map is from Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia by Lyn Rodley (p. 64).

My favorite detail is the narrow passage between areas 13 and 18. Good design, Cappadocians!

And the detailed room-by-room description is like a keyed dungeon... Albeit without monsters. Some excerpts from the book:

Room 2

At the south side of the east wall of Room 1 a small rectangular opening leads into Room 2, a narrow rectangular room with a bench along west, east and south walls. The room is roughly barrel-vaulted at its north end and has a flat ceiling at the south end, carried above a cornice. West, east and south walls at this end of the room have a decoration of arched blind niches; those on the west and east walls taper off at their north sides. The niche of the south wall contains a large rectangular window, overlooking the valley.


Room 8

The porch, like the church, was plastered, but most of the plaster has fallen away. Fragments remain on the east wall, around the church entrance, and on the easternmost edges of north and south walls. Just below the cornice on each side is a painted inscription of seven lines on the north side and three lines on the south. The lines of the inscription appear to be complete and since they occupy the whole width of the plastered area of the porch it is possible that the plaster did not extend right across the porch wall, but was confined to a narrow vertical band the width of the inscription. Unlikely though this may seem, the alternative is to assume that by chance the area of plaster with the inscription has been preserved while the rest is lost. The text, a dodecasyllabic poem, is as follows:

‘Let no one be misled by the desire for wealth for the love of money has destroyed many. For this flesh is earth, clay and...’

The poem appears to refer to the tomb chamber below it, but clearly does not supply any information on the inhabitants of the chamber.


Room 12

A secondary opening in the west wall of Room 12 leads into Room 13, described below. The only original opening is the rectangular entrance from Area 10, described above, which opens into the south wall of Room 12. In the southeast corner of the room a chimney has been cut through the ceiling, and the room is much blackened by smoke.


Room 18

There are two openings in the south wall of the east gallery: to the west, the entrance to another elbow-shaped passage leading to the east end of the south gallery (18c) and to the east an opening into the long tunnel (b) which links the east wall of Room 18 with Room 13.


Room 28

This is a small barrel-vaulted room with cornices, a transverse arch and wall arches, like so many others of the monastery. One lunette is decorated with a relief carving of a horned animal. The location of the stable suggests that the tunnel was once the only entrance to the monastery, and that horses and pack animals had to be left at the foot of the hill and the tunnel entered on foot. The room with the horned animal may conceivably have been a gatehouse of sorts.


  1. Being a monk in Cappadocia must have been fun

    1. "I got lost in the tunnels on my way from the church the my cell AGAIN"