Zelve Open Air Museum is situated on the northern slopes of Aktepe, 1km from Pasabaglari (Monk’s Valley) . The ruins at Zelve are spread over three valleys, which also house several pointed fairy chimneys with large stems. The valley was inhabited until 1952.
Besides monasteries and churches, houses, a tunnel joining two of the valleys, a mill, a mosque and several dove-cotes are found in the valley. Like the ones in Uchisar, Goreme and Cavusin, it is not known when the rock dwellings in Zelve were first inhabited but it was an important settlement and religious area during the 9th and 13th centuries. The first seminaries for priest were established here.
The Direkli Church (with Columns), situated atthe bottom of the slopes, dates back to the early years of monastery life in Zelve. The main decorations are high relief crosses representative of the Iconoclastic doctrine. Some of the most important cave churches in the valley are Balıklı (Fish), Üzümlü (Grape) and Geyikli (Deer), all belonging to the Pre-Iconoclastic period.
BALIKLI(FISH) AND UZUMLU(GRAPE) CHURCHES
The churches are situated o the east of a monastery courtyard, in the third valley in Zelve. Above the entrance to the Fish and Grape churches, which has partly collapsed, is the depiction of the Enthroned Mother Mary holding he Baby Jesus.
On the partly collapsed vault are Archangels Gabriel and Michael holding up a Maltese Cross. To the right of the entrance is the single naved, barrel vaulted cell-like “South Chapel” with an apse. Inside the chapel, On the apse, in a redd frame, is pictured Jesus standing an holding a book in one hand and blessing with the other. The front of the apse is decorated with series of simple triangles and circles with dots in them and the vault is decorated with a Maltese Cross and concentric ciricles. The chapel probably dates back to the 10th century.