Sumela Monastery
Overview
 
The Sümela Monastery , , i.e. monastery of the Panaghia ("All Holy", the Greek name for the Virgin Mary) at Melá mountain) is a Greek Orthodox monastery, standing at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altındere valley, in the region of Maçka
Maçka
Maçka is a town and district of Trabzon Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The mayor is Ertuğrul Genç .-External links:* *...

 in Trabzon Province
Trabzon Province
Trabzon Province is a province of Turkey on the Black Sea coast. Located in a strategically important region, Trabzon is one of the oldest trade port cities in Anatolia. Neighbouring provinces are Giresun to the west, Gümüşhane to the southwest, Bayburt to the southeast and Rize to the east. The...

, modern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. Lying at an altitude of approximately 1200 metres, it is a major tourist attraction of Altındere National Park.
Founded in the year 386 AD during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 (375 - 395), legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery on the site after having discovered a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain.

During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored by various Emperors.
Encyclopedia
The Sümela Monastery , , i.e. monastery of the Panaghia ("All Holy", the Greek name for the Virgin Mary) at Melá mountain) is a Greek Orthodox monastery, standing at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altındere valley, in the region of Maçka
Maçka
Maçka is a town and district of Trabzon Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The mayor is Ertuğrul Genç .-External links:* *...

 in Trabzon Province
Trabzon Province
Trabzon Province is a province of Turkey on the Black Sea coast. Located in a strategically important region, Trabzon is one of the oldest trade port cities in Anatolia. Neighbouring provinces are Giresun to the west, Gümüşhane to the southwest, Bayburt to the southeast and Rize to the east. The...

, modern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. Lying at an altitude of approximately 1200 metres, it is a major tourist attraction of Altındere National Park.

History

Founded in the year 386 AD during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 (375 - 395), legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery on the site after having discovered a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain.

During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored by various Emperors. During the 6th Century AD, it was restored and enlarged by General Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 at the behest of Justinian.

It reached its present form in the 13th century after gaining prominence during the reign of Alexios III
Alexios III of Trebizond
Alexios III Megas Komnenos or Alexius III , Emperor of Trebizond from December 1349 until his death. He was the son of Emperor Basil of Trebizond and his second wife, Irene of Trebizond...

 (1349 - 1390) of the Komnenian
Komnenos
Komnenós or Comnenus was the name of a ruling family of the Eastern Roman Empire , who halted the political decline of the Empire from c.1081 to c.1185.-Origins:...

 Empire of Trebizond
Empire of Trebizond
The Empire of Trebizond, founded in April 1204, was one of three Byzantine successor states of the Byzantine Empire. However, the creation of the Empire of Trebizond was not directly related to the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, rather it had broken away from the Byzantine Empire...

 (established in 1204). At that time, the monastery was granted an amount annually from imperial funds. During the time of Manuel III
Manuel III of Trebizond
Manuel III Megas Komnenos was Emperor of Trebizond from March 20, 1390 to his death in 1417. He was the son of Emperor Alexios III of Trebizond by Theodora Kantakouzene.Manuel became the heir of his father in 1377, after the death of his elder brother Basil...

, son of Alexius III, and during the reigns of subsequent princes, Sümela gained further wealth from imperial grants. Following the conquest by the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

 in 1461, it was granted protection by order of the Sultan and given rights and privileges which were renewed by following sultans. Monks and travelers continued to journey there through the years, the monastery remaining extremely popular up until the 19th century.

In 1682 and for a few decades it housed the Phrontisterion of Trapezous
Phrontisterion of Trapezous
The Phrontisterion of Trapezous was a Greek educational institution that operated from 1682/3 to 1921 in Trabzon , in the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey. It provided a major impetus for the rapid expansion of Greek education throughout the Pontus region, on the south coast of the Black Sea...

, a well known Greek educational institution of the region.

The Monastery was seized by the Russian Empire during the occupation of Trabzon in the years 1916-1918. The site was finally abandoned in 1923, following forced population exchanges between Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Turkey. The departing monks were not allowed to take any property with them, so they buried Sumela's famous icon under the floor of the monastery's St. Barbara chapel. In 1930 a monk secretly returned to Sumela and retrieved the icon, transferring it to the new Panagia Soumela Monastery, on the slopes of Mount Vermion, near the town of Naousa
Naousa, Imathia
Naousa or Naoussa is a city in the Imathia peripheral unit of Macedonia, Greece. Population 34,441.It is famous for its parks and for its ski resorts...

, in Macedonia
Macedonia (Greece)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of Greece in Southern Europe. Macedonia is the largest and second most populous Greek region...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

.

Today the monastery's primary function is as a tourist attraction. Its place overlooking the forests and streams below, makes it extremely popular for its aesthetic attraction as well as for its cultural and religious significance. Currently restoration work funded by the Turkish government is taking place. It is currently enjoying a revival in pilgrimage from Greece and Russia.

On 15 August 2010 Orthodox
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

 divine liturgy was again allowed after decades in the monastery compound.

It is important to know that if somebody wants to visit the monastery on the 15th of August (day of the Assumption of Mary
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

, a big christian orthodox
Christian Orthodox
Christian Orthodoxy can refer to either:* The Oriental Orthodox Church* The Eastern Orthodox Church...

 feest) for the divine liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

 they need to acquire a special pass. The number of people entering the monastery on the 15th of August is limited to 450-500, thus anyone not having such a pass cannot enter the monastery. Nonethless, widescreens are available to observe the diving liturgy at the cafe some hundred meters away from the monastery. More information about the passes should be found by contacting the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

.

Construction and buildings

The principal elements of the Monastery complex are the Rock Church, several chapels, kitchens, student rooms, a guesthouse, a library, and a sacred spring revered by Orthodox Greeks.

The large aqueduct at the entrance, which supplied water to the Monastery, is constructed against the side of the cliff. The aqueduct has many arches which have mostly been restored. The entrance to the Monastery leads up a long and narrow stairway. There is a guard-room next to the entrance. The stairs lead down from there to the inner courtyard. On the left, in front of a cave, there are several monastery buildings. The cave, which was converted into a church, constitutes the centre of the monastery. The library is to the right.

The large building with a balcony on the front part of the cliff was used for the monks' cells and for housing guests. It dates from 1840.

The influence of Turkish art can be observed in the design of the cupboards, niches and fire-place in the rooms of the buildings surrounding the courtyard.

The inner and outer walls of the Rock Church and the walls of the adjacent chapel are decorated with frescoes. Frescoes dating from the era of Alexios III of Trebizond
Alexios III of Trebizond
Alexios III Megas Komnenos or Alexius III , Emperor of Trebizond from December 1349 until his death. He was the son of Emperor Basil of Trebizond and his second wife, Irene of Trebizond...

line the inner wall of the Rock Church facing the courtyard. The frescoes of the chapel which were painted on three levels in three different periods are dated to the beginning of the 18th century. The frescoes of the bottom band are of superior quality.

The frescoes of the Sümela Monastery are seriously damaged, having largely been moved from their original settings. The main subject of the frescoes are biblical scenes telling the story of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

External links

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