Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

The Sumela Monastery is a prominent Greek Orthodox monastery situated at Karadağ within the Pontic Mountains in the Maçka district of Trabzon Province, Turkey. Its location high up on a steep cliff overlooking the Altındere valley makes it a site of great historical and cultural significance.

However, in 2015, the monastery was closed to the public for safety reasons due to an increase in rock falls. Despite initial plans to resolve the issue within a year, the monastery remained closed for three years until its eventual reopening on May 25th, 2019.

Sumela Monastery

Construction of the Sumela Monastery began in 385 AD using stones and clay bricks. It was initially built by a Greek monk named Barnabas, with the help of his nephew Sophronios who assisted in constructing two rooms using rocks. Over the following centuries, other monks joined them and expanded the monastery.

The monastery was enlarged under the order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, but it was later looted and burnt by Byzantines in 650 AD. It was subsequently restored by the Comnenids who added 72 rooms and a rich library to the monastery.

The Sumela Monastery gained prominence during the existence of the Empire of Trabzon in the 13th century, which is when it took on its current form. It was endowed with rich gifts by Basil and John, but its most significant contribution came during the reign of Alexios III (1349-1390). According to legend, Alexios III was saved from a storm by a Virgin lady who urged him to restore Sumela Monastery.

The Monastery complex consists of several chapels, kitchens, student rooms, a guesthouse, a library, and the sacred spring that is revered by Eastern Orthodox Christians. The Rock Church is the most prominent feature, with amazing frescoes depicting the entire Old and New Testament. The frescoes begin with the creation story in Genesis and continue through to the ascension of Jesus, including most of the prophets from the Old Testament. The church has 140 different stories painted on its walls, making it a unique and special place.

Sumela Monastery was added to the Tentative List of UNESCO in 2000, recognizing its historical and cultural significance.