The church of Nikephoros Phokas in the village of Çavuşin, which is at a distance of few kilometers from Göreme, is carved in the edge of a rock, which lies on the north side of the settlement. Due to its use as dovecote during the Postbyzantine years, the church is also known as the “Dovecote of Çavuşin” (in Turkish Güvercinlik Kilisesi and Kuşluk Kilise). However, it is mistakenly confused with the basilica of Saint John the Baptist, which is 500 m. away from the church.
The particularity of the monument is owed to the fact that it is the only Cappadocian church, which bears in its decorative program depictions of emperors. We can see Nikephoros Phokas (963-969), who is depicted in the north conch of the bema with his wife Theophano, his father Bardas, his brother Leo, an unidentified female figure and John Tzimiskes (969-976), who is depicted on the east side of the north wall.
The construction and the decoration of the church were completed during the reign of Nikephoros Phokas and especially the years 964-965, which coincided with the stay of the imperial family in Cappadocia and the victorious campaigns of Phokas against the Arabs in Cilicia. Even though the church is not an imperial sponsorship, the intention of the founders, probably local officers, is obvious since they wanted to honor Nikephoros as an emperor and his conflicts against the Arabs and praise his family, which was closely related to Cappadocia. The initial dedication of the church is unknown but it is possible that it was dedicated to Archangel Michael (or Taksiarchae) due to the multiple depictions in the wall decorations.
The church is a barrel-vaulted, almost trapezoid, single-nave building, with three apses on the east side (from which the central is bigger) and a narthex, which is completely destroyed in its west part. In the east end of the side walls, a blind arch is formed, while a built bench in on all the sides of the temple, apart from the east one, where steps are formed in front of the apses.
The decorative program, which is developed in successive zones and includes an extended Christological cycle, with many episodes related to the Birth of Christ and the Passion Cycle, the depiction of the imperial family, as it has been mentioned before, and also the magister Melias next to Tzimiskes and plenty of saints, mostly military ones. Furthermore, there is the inclusion of the Forty Martyrs in the decoration, from whom 27 are recognized while the other 13 were probably on the part of the narthex that was destroyed. There is no doubt that this choice of saints was made on purpose, so as to praise the military deeds of Nikephoros and his general, but also the divine help that led them to victories.
The first publication of the church was made by Guillaume de Jerphanion, who visited the church in 1911 and 1912 when it was still used as a dovecote. The following studies have pointed out the history and the art of one of the most important churches in Cappadocia, in the area of Çavuşin, where the gradual erosion damages the monuments and due to this phenomenon, in the last decades many inhabitants have fled their homes.