Where is Sümela Monastery (Virgin Mary Monastery)?

The Sümela Monastery, built on a steep cliff in the foothills of Karadag, dominating the Altındere valley, within the borders of Altındere Village of Maçka District of Trabzon, is known as “Virgin Mary” among the people. The structure, which is about 300 meters above the valley, has continued the tradition of establishing monasteries outside the city, in forests, caves and waterfront. It is said that the monastery, founded in the name of the Virgin Mary, took its name “Sumela” from the word “molasses” which means “black”. Although this name is thought to come from the dark-colored Karadag, where the monastery was established, the word Sumela can be attributed to the black color of the depiction of Mary here.

History of Sumela Monastery

According to the legend, the monastery which was founded by two priests named Barnabas and Sophranios who came from Athens during the time of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I (375-395), was repaired by one of his generals, Belisarios, after Emperor Justinianus asked the monastery to be repaired and expanded in the 6th century.

It is known that the Sumela Monastery has its present form since the 13th century.  During the time of III. Alexios (1349-1390), the importance of the monastery increased and income was obtained with the edicts.

After the Eastern Black Sea coasts came under Turkish rule, the Ottoman Sultans protected the rights of Soumela, as in many monasteries, and gave some privileges.

Many parts of the Sümela Monastery were renovated in the 18th century and some of the walls were decorated with frescoes.With the addition of large buildings in the 19th century, the monastery gained a magnificent appearance and lived its richest and brightest period. The monastery, which took its final shape during this period, became a place visited by many foreign travelers and subject to their writings.

During the Russian occupation of Trabzon between 1916-1918, the monastery was seized and completely evacuated after 1923. Main sections of Sümela Monastery; It is the main rock church, several chapels, kitchens, student rooms, guest house, library and holy spring. This ensemble of structures was built on a very large area. The large aqueduct, apparently bringing water at the entrance of the monastery, is leaning on the slope. Most of this multi-eyed arch is destroyed today.

A narrow long staircase leads to the main entrance of the monastery. There are guard rooms next to the entrance door. From here, a staircase leads down to the inner courtyard. On the left, there are various monastery buildings in front of the cave, which is the basis of the monastery and turned into a church. The library is on the right. Again on the right, the section with a large balcony covering the front of the slope was used as monks’ rooms and guest rooms and is dated to 1860. In the buildings around the courtyard, the effects of Turkish art can also be seen with the cabinets, cells and stoves in the rooms.


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