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30 June Sunday

THE LITTLE-KNOWN STORY BEHIND SUMELA MONASTERY, A WONDER OF TRABZON

Sümela manastırı

Trabzon played host to tens of civilizations throughout history and is therefore home to numerous historical artifacts. Among them are 983 cultural assets and 25 archeological sites. Sumela Monastery is, no doubt, the most remarkable one among these artifacts as it did not become the symbol of Trabzon for nothing. Located in the Maçka district within the borders of Altındere Village, this majestic building is positioned on a steep cliff. Let’s now learn about the little-known story behind Sumela Monastery, a wonder of Trabzon...

 

Sumela, the black monastery...

Meyem ana

Sumela Monastery, which is also called the Virgin Mary Monastery by the locals, is located at a height of 300 meters. The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. And the word “Sumela” is known to have derived from the word “melas”, which means black in English. The reason why this name was given to the monastery is believed to be associated with the black portraits of the Virgin Mary or the Black Mountains.

 

The present display dates back to 13th century

There are loads of rumors about Sumela Monastery. But the most common rumor is that the monastery was founded by two monks, Sophronios and Barnabas, who went there from Athens during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I (375- 395). In the 6th century the building was renovated by General Belisarius at the behest of Justinian I. As far as it is known, it was in the 13th century when Sumela Monastery took its final form that survived to this day. The monastery gained even more importance during Alexios III who was in rule in the era of the Principality of Trebizond-Komnenos founded in 1204. In fact, the monastery was financed through imperial orders. The monastery also continued to thrive during the reigns of Alexios’ son and other princes that inherited the throne afterwards.

 

Era of the Turkish dominance with all rights preserved and privileges granted

After a while, the coasts of Eastern Black Sea came under the domination of Turks. But, despite this domination, the Ottomans preserved the rights of the monastery and granted privileges. In the 18th century some of its walls were adorned with frescoes and most parts were renovated. This was followed by the addition of huge buildings in the 19th century. The monastery’s present noble look is the product of the glorious and rich period that came thereafter. Again in the same period, the monastery was visited by many explorers who mentioned this majesty in their travel books. The monastery was seized during the Russian occupation from 1916 - 1918. But it was completely liberalized in 1923.

 

Architectural features of Sumela Monastery...

Sümela Manastırı yapısı

Among the important parts of Sumela Monastery are student rooms, a library, a sacred spring of Orthodox Greeks, a guest house, a kitchen, a chapel and the main rock church. All elements are positioned in a broad area. At the side of the cliff is a large aqueduct of water supply. But some parts of the aqueduct are today in ruins. The path to the monastery entrance is through narrow and long stairs. And right next to the entrance gate are the guard rooms. From there welcoming visitors is the inner courtyard. Around the courtyard, influence of Turkish art is visible in the fireplaces, cells and closets of the rooms of the buildings. The inner and outer walls of the rock church and the adjacent chapel draw attention with their frescoes. The inner courtyard also has frescoes from the era of Alexios III. Frescoes in Sumela Monastery depict biblical settings.

 

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