Cehennemağzı Cave

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Cehennemağzı Cave

Cehennemağzı Caves; are located in İnönü neighborhood (formerly known as “Ayazma” – which means holy water) of the Karadeniz Ereğli District in our city. Operating as a ruins site under the administration of Karadeniz Ereğli Museum, Cehennemağzı Caves consist of three caves arranged side by side. The first cave is arranged in two sections. In the first section, the ground is paved with original flora and mosaics with geometric motifs. A small apse was carved on the eastern wall of the second section and there are stairs at the front. An ancient Christian church, this cave was used as a secret place of worship during early years of Christianity. In its original state, the cave was given a monumental shape worthy of its importance with two outward opening columns. The second cave is located on the 10-12 meter-high slope by the road and referred to as Koca Yusuf cave by local residents. Entry to the cave is provided through a narrow passage on the slope which is followed by a three-step vertical staircase to go down. The cave goes 1.5 kilometers deep into the mountain. The trails of stonemason’s chisel indicate the cave was arranged by human hands which covers an area of approximately 400 m2 and is supported by two pillars. The third cave is the largest in terms of surface area. Its ground is covered with ground water. It served as a water cistern to the man-made first and second caves.
Mythological and Religious Importance of the Caves:
1. Capturing the Hellhound Cerberus from the Underworld (Hades), from where no mortal being ever returned, was the final and most difficult of the twelve labors which were assigned by King Eurystheus to Heracles which symbolized men’s unbeatable power of endurance and attacking against nature. Heracles arrives at Kdz. Ereğli with Argonauts and brings Cerberus above ground with the help of Hermes and Athena. When Eurystheus gets extremely scared upon seeing Cerberus, Heracles leaves the hound at the Underworld again. Cehennemağzı Caves is the place where Heracles descended to the Underworld to capture Cerberus.
2. It is known that these caves are one of the two centers of prophecy in the Antiquity. The other one is located in the city of Delphoi in Greece.
3. According to another myth, the daughter of the city’s feudal landlord falls for her servant; they elope together and hide in the girl-boy room in Cehennemağzı Caves. The devil protects them against any danger from outside. The feudal landlord, unable to enter the cave, shouts “turn into stone” at her daughter and servant and they consequently turn into stone.
4. The columns, capitals, tessellation, and candle nests inside the first of Cehennemağzı Caves which is also known as the church cave indicate that the cave was used as a secret center of worship by the first Christians at a time when paganism was dominant and Christianity was forbidden. Remnants found in this cave are decorated with motifs bearing the marks of the early Christian era.