Byzantine Armour in Kappadokian Murals


There are seventeen fully armoured military saints (including the Archangel Michael) depicted in the Dovecote Church. The armour worn by the saints is quite varied in style, colour and form. Lamellar, scale and mail armour can all be seen. As is common in Byzantine depictions of military saints, none wear helmets.

The Frieze

Twelve of these form a frieze along one one wall of the church, supposedly representing the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (though rather reduced in numbers - perhaps because the church is so small?) Jerphanion conjectured that these may have depicted donors to the church. All are on foot except for two mounted men at the far right. These two carry spears which appear to be made of bamboo, which was native to the area in Byzantine times.The rest carry swords, which they rest across one shoulder, though the man on the far right also has a bamboo spear. Rather unusually in Byzantine depictions, none carry shields. Perhaps this was done for artistic reasons, to avoid cluttering up the picture. Certainly, the single saint below has one.


Joshua and the Archangel Michael


Three Saints


Single Saint


Concealed in a cave on the reverse side of a cliff, this church contains murals of military saints, and one rather rare one of a soldier in a mail-shirt.

I would like to acknowledge the help of Raffaele d'Amato in Italy who, having expressed interest in the photographs I'd taken of the Goreme valley murals, not only scanned them for me but sent me a copy at his own expense of Jerphanion's definitive two-volume text on the subject. His assistance and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated.

This page last updated December 2011



1. de Jerphanion, G. Les Eglises Rupestres de Cappadoce Librarie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner. Paris,1932