Doves are the symbol of peace and devotion to family in Islan whereas regarded as a symbol of the “Holy Spirit” in Christianity.
Dove-cotes, hollowed out into the upper parts of almost all the valleys and fairy chimneys, generally face east or south sides of the valleys. Since doves are in need of water to digest the grains they hava already stocked in their craws, they are also named “the guarding birds of the fountains”. For this reason dove-cotes were hollowed out near the water sources. Although most of the dove-cotes in the region of Cappodocia date back to the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, there are few examples dating to the 18th century. These small buildings do not attract our attention much but are important in terms of showing us Islamic painting art which is rarely fonud in Cappadocia region.
The reason behind hollowing out dowe-cotes was not to catch and eat pigeons but to use their excrement as fertilizer. The locla farmers used pigeon droppings as fertilizers for generations, and for this reason, a great number of dove-cotes were hollowed out.
While hollowing dove-cotes, small niches or recesses were carved into 4 or 5 rows for pigeons to land on, on the three walls of a 5-10 square meter room and when needed wooden perches were also put across the room. This can easily be observed with some of the dovecotes the facades of which are collapsed. Since dove-cotes were hollowed out high up into the cliffs, access can be gained either through a hollowed out tunnel or by a ladder. Another type of dovecotes is the ones that were orginally hollowed out as churches or monasteries and by closing up the entrances and the windows they were changed into dove-cotes. Some of the best examples for this type are the Cavusin (Nicephorus Phocas) Church near Cavusin, the Kiliclar Ksulku Church (of Mother Mary) in Goreme and some churches in the valley of Karsibucak. We owe the well preserved frescoes of churches used as dove-cotes to pigeons, because in this way frescoes were not exposed to tdhe sun light and were protected from people, since farmers go into the dove-cotes only once a year and leave the place rebulding the wall.
The facades of the dove-cotes were gnerally embellished in accordance with the tradition of the time and in harmony with the social life; the dyes used were extracted from trees, flowers, wild grass and soil with ferrous oxide. In addition to this, the red dye, widely used in decorating dove-cotes, was extracted from a kind of soil/mud known as “Yosa” in the region.
According to locals, the white paint is made by mixing plaster and white of an egg, therefore, animals; such as martens and foxes, find it difficult to climb up to dove-cotes to get pigeons and eggs. However, with most of the dove-cotes on the west side of the Uchisar castle, a simpler method, trinplate or zinc plates were used.
In the motifs with dove-cotes decorated with multicolors, feelings, thoughts and creativity of the local artists are hidden. A research done with more than one hundred motifs shows that Cappadocian artists, lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, preferred motifs that are simpe but also mystical. The motif of whell of fortune, that can be seen on both sides of almost all the dove-cotes found in the valleys of Goreme, Cavusin and Zelve, is one of the oldest Anatolian motifs. Although in the past it was th esymbol of four gods of wind, it now symbolizes the world going round, the destiny changing and the circle of fate and love. The motifs of tree of life with a bird and a pomegranate are as widely used as the motifs of wheell of fortune. The tree of life, originating from Shaman beliefs, symbolize the way to the other (spiritual) world and the birds on it are the craetures guarding the tree and one’s company during the journey. Pomegranate, symbolizing heaven, abundance and fertitiy, has been regarded as a holy fruit through the history. It also indicates that a marriage will last long, family will become rich and have many children who will have long lives. The motifs mentioned above, inscriptions written in Old Turkish are also found at the dove cove. Those inscriptions generally bare the date when the dove cove was built, words of “Masallah” and “Allah” and though very seldom the name and the occupation of the owner.
In the region of Cappadocia, the dove-cotes are mainly found in the valleys near Uchisar, Kiliclar and Gulludere valleys of Goreme, in the Uzengi valley of Urgup, in Balkanderesi and the valley of Kizilcukur of Ortahisar, and in the valley of Cat near Nevsehir end in the Soganli Valley in the province of Kayseri.