At the beginning of the 14th century, Cappadocia became part of the Ottoman Empire. The construction of new cave churches stopped. In 1453, Constantinople fell, and with it collapsed the last hopes of the Cappadocians to restore Byzantine rule. The times of the Ottoman Empire were marked, on the one hand, by relative peace, but on the other, by the gradual impoverishment of church life. Several devastating earthquakes destroyed many churches in the Göreme and Ihlara valleys. The monastics left them. Cave churches were abandoned, partly destroyed, partly repurposed for practical needs.
Only in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Christians of Kayseri, Mustafapaşa and some other cities, were allowed to build some new churches. They were allowed to repaint several existing cave churches, too. In this, the Cappadocians received considerable help from Russia. For example, the Russian Emperors helped to restore and paint the church of Saint Gregory the Theologian in Nazianzos. This is the church that Saint Gregory once built himself.
This important work was interrupted by WWI and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The result of its destruction was sad. In 1924, about 250 thousand Greeks were deported from Cappadocia. It was the entire Orthodox population of the region.
The attitude of the Greeks towards this deportation was different in each individual case, for each particular fate. This tragic dualism was well expressed by Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, the last of the great Cappadocian saints. He was the spiritual father of Saint Paisios of Mount Athos, also a native of Cappadocia. Tradition has preserved the words of Saint Arsenios: "In Greece, you will find your homeland and reunite with your people. But will you find the faith of the Cappadocian Fathers there?"
It is difficult to put together a single picture of the situation of modern Cappadocia and in Turkey as a whole. In Turkey, there is neither hatred nor rejection of Orthodox heritage. Moreover, the position of the cave churches of Cappadocia has undoubtedly improved over the past half century. Photographs from the 1910s and 1920s show that under the Greeks, these churches were in a much more deplorable state than they are now. This was due to the extreme poverty of the local population of Cappadocia. There was also the lack of proper appreciation of the early Christian culture among the Orthodox Greeks themselves. But until the early 20th century, other Orthodox peoples paid little attention to early icon painting and frescoes, too. Thus, in Russia, icons of Andrei Rublev were painted over, frescoes from the time of Theophanos the Greek and Dionysios were knocked down. So, it is unfair to blame the destruction of dozens of Cappadocian churches on the Turks alone.
Still, after the deportation of the Greeks in 1924, many churches were desecrated by illiterate peasants. Later, they were vandalized by the first tourists who began to visit Cappadocia. But this was soon put to an end. The most valuable churches were restored, mainly by the efforts of the Europeans, and placed under protection. But while there are dozens of preserved churches, there are still hundreds of abandoned churches. In the preservation of cultural heritage in Turkey, the Orthodox landmarks are the last on the list. Ottoman and Islamic cultures and Antiquity are in priority.
The 19th century was one of the most difficult periods in relations between Russia and Turkey. Still, the Russian Emperors found opportunities to save Orthodox holy places in Cappadocia. The Russian Archaeological Institute was established in Constantinople. It coordinated the work of Russian restorers in Istanbul, Myra, and Nazianzos. In 1917, this activity was curtailed and never resumed. But recently, Russian archaeologists and art critics travel to Cappadocia more and more often. They come for research, but also because of simple interest in this holy land.
Whatever the position of modern Cappadocia, heavenly Cappadocia always exists. In all its grandeur and glory, it stands before God. Once united, this is an indestructible union. Only when the entire cosmos will be transformed and "God will be all in all," will all the beauty, strength and glory of this wondrous place be revealed. Now we can only say with hope in our hearts - all the saints of the Cappadocian land, pray to God for us!