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Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

Where is the Sumela Monastery (Virgin Mary) located in?
The Sumela Monastery, built on a steep rock on the skirts of Montenegro, within the borders of the Altındere Village of the Maçka District of Trabzon, is known as the "Virgin Mary" among the people. The building, which is at a height of 300 meters from the valley, has continued the tradition of establishing monasteries outside the city in forests, caves and on the water. Founded in the name of the Virgin Mary, the monastery is said to have taken the name "Sumela" from the word "melas’" meaning "black". Although this name is thought to come from the dark-colored Montenegrins where the monastery was founded, the word Sumela can be connected to the black color of the depiction of Mary here.

The history of Sumela Monastery
According to the legend, the monastery, which was founded by two priests named Barnabas and Sophronios from Athens (375-395) during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I, was repaired by Belenearius from the Generals in the 6th century when the Emperor Justinian wanted to repair and expand the monastery.

It is known that the Sumela Monastery continued its existence from the 13th century. From the Principality of Trabzon Komnenos founded in 1204, The importance of the monastery increased during the time of III. Alexios (1349-1390) and revenues were provided by edicts. Sumela was enriched with new edicts during the period of III. Alexios's son III. Manuel and later princes.

After the Eastern Black Sea coast came under Turkish domination, the Ottoman Sultans protected the rights of Sumela and gave some privileges, as in many monasteries.
Many parts of the Sumela Monastery were renovated in the 18th century, and some walls were decorated with frescoes. With the addition of large buildings in the 19th century, the monastery gained a magnificent appearance and experienced its richest and brightest period.
The monastery, which took its final shape in this period, has become a place visited by many foreign travelers and a subject to their writings. The monastery was confiscated during the Russian invasion of Trabzon between 1916 and 1918, after 1923 it was completely evacuated.

The main parts of the Sumela Monastery; The Ana Kaya Church, the kitchen, student rooms, guesthouse, library and Kutsal Ayazma. This collection of structures is built on a very large area. The large aqueduct, which seems to bring water at the entrance of the monastery, is leaning on to hillside. A large part of this multi-eyed aqueduct has been destroyed.

The main entrance of the monastery is reached by a narrow long staircase. There are guard rooms next to the entrance door. There is a staircase to the inner courtyard. On the left, there are various monastery buildings in front of the cave, which constitutes the monastery and becomes a church. On the right there is the library and there are monk rooms and guest rooms with large balconies covering the front of the aqueduct and are thought to have been built in 1860. In the buildings around the courtyard, the effects of Turkish art can be seen in the cabinets, furnaces and the rooms.

The interior and exterior walls of the Kaya church and the chapel adjacent to it, which form the main unit of the monastery, are decorated with frescoes. On the wall facing the courtyard inside the Kaya church, the existence of the frescoes of the III. Alexios period was determined. The frescoes in the chapel are dated to the beginning of the 18th century and there are three layers made in three separate periods. The frescoes of the bottom layer are superior.

The main topics covered in frescoes are scenes taken from the Bible, descriptions of the life of Jesus and Virgin Mary which were taken by dismantling in the Sumela Monastery and which have a rather dilapidated appearance.

Must Go
You should definitely visit the national park facilities in Altındere Valley, where the monastery is located. The “Vazelon Monastery'', located in the same valley, previously built from the Sumela monastery and dedicated to the John The Baptist, also deserves attention. Also there is another cave church in the style of Cappadocian churches, which is common in Anatolia, in the region of Maşatlık, Trabzon.