Sümela Monastery , located in Maçka district of Trabzon , is one of the oldest churches in the history of Christianity as well as Anatolia. Founded on Mela Hill in Altındere Valley and located at an altitude of 1,150 m above sea level, Sümela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery and church complex. Panagia Soumela, with her full name known as ‘Mary Mary’ among the people, has had a very important place by being blessed by Christians throughout history.
The icon of Panagia Soumela, the Sumela Monastery drawn by St. Luke, one of the biblical writers, is similar to the churches in Cappadocia, which is a very important region for Christians, in terms of its structural features. The building, which was first built as a church and then converted into a monastery, is famous for its frescoes rather than its architecture. There is not much information about the millennium period between the first foundation of the church and its transformation into a monastery.
Sümela Monastery is located on a steep cliff on the slope of Karadağ in Altındere Valley, within the borders of Maçka district of Trabzon. The monastery, which seems to be stuck to the mountain, has a breathtaking view in the heart of the lush nature. The monastery, whose full name is Panagia Soumela (Mary of Sumela) or Theotokos Soumela , is more commonly known as the Virgin Mary.
The Greek Orthodox monastery and church complex, which is 1,150 meters above sea level and 300 meters above the valley, is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Tentative List. Sümela, the most important monastery of the region, had the mission of a school to train monks since its foundation. The main feature that made the monastery important was that it had an icon believed to perform miracles.
The history of the Sumela Monastery is based on the legend told by the Greeks of the Black Sea region. The legend, which started with St. Barnabas and his nephew St. Sophronios having the same dream, continues with their seeing the place of Sumela as the place of the icon made by St. Luke. In the Panagia Soumela icon, one of the three Panagia icons made by St. Luke, one of the Gospel writers, Mary holds the baby Jesus in her arms.
It is said that the saints, who came to Trabzon by sea without knowing each other and told each other the dream they saw here, laid the foundation of the first church. However, Trabzon Emperor III, who is frequently featured in the frescoes in the monastery and is given special importance. It is thought that Alexios may have been the real founder of the monastery.
Although it is not certain, the construction of the monastery, which is estimated to have been completed between 365-395 years, III. Another possibility is that it was renovated and maintained by Alexios. Because III. The imperial period of Alexios is between 1349-1390.
The monastery, which was in its original state until the fourteenth century, has taken on the task of defense outpost with the city, which has been exposed to Turkmen raids since that date. It is also known that there was no change in the status of the monastery after the conquest of the Ottoman Empire, and Yavuz Sultan Selim gifted two large candlesticks here during his princedom in Trabzon.
Mehmet the Conqueror, II. Murat, I. Selim, II. Selim III. Murad, Ibrahim, IV. Mehmet, II. Solomon and III. Ottoman Sultans, like Ahmet, each had a edict about the monastery.
Sümela Monastery became the headquarters of Greek militias who wanted to establish an independent Pontus state in the region by merging with other monasteries in the Maçka region during the Russian occupation that continued until 1918. However, the monastery, which lost its importance in the 1921 Population Exchange, remained empty until it was repaired by the Ministry of Culture.
On the other hand, the Greeks of the Black Sea, who went to Greece with the population exchange, built a new church in the city of Veria, which they named Sümela. Every year in August, festivals with broad participation are held around the new monastery, just like in Trabzon Sümela in the past.
In 2010 , with the permission of Turkey , the first mass after 88 years was held on August 15, which is considered holy and accepted as the ascension day of the Virgin Mary by Christians. The ceremony was led by Fener Greek Patriarch Dimitri Bartholomew.
Importance of Sumela Monastery
Sumela Monastery is one of the first holy temples of believers, built in the early period of Christianity. This important privilege makes the Sumela Monastery special, and the frescoes in it have a special importance. The Virgin Mary figures in the monastery are depicted as the ‘Georgian Madonna’ used by the Georgians.
In the apse part of the main church, on the south wall, there are pictures of the birth of Mary and her presentation in the temple, the preaching, the birth of Jesus, his presentation and life in the temple and the pictures from the Bible at the bottom. At the south door of the monastery, there are frescoes of the death of Mary and the apostles, and in the second row facing east, Genesis, the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve, God’s admonition, the Rebellion and the Expulsion from Paradise.
In the upper part of the Sumela Monastery, facing east, in the third row, there is the suspicion of Thomas, an angel in the grave, the Council of Nikaia (Iznik). Outside the apse, there are frescoes of Michael and Gabriel above.
Parts of the Sumela Monastery
The sections of the Sumela Monastery consist of a bedrock church, chapel, oven, kitchen, student rooms, guesthouse, library and holy spring. At the entrance of the monastery, there are arches that meet the water needs. It is said that the main reason why Mehmet the Conqueror did not interfere with the monastery after he conquered Trabzon was the holy water flowing from the fountain above, which is believed to heal the sick.
The effects of Turkish art can also be seen in the cabinets, cells and hearths in the buildings around the courtyard. The main part of the monastery, the rock church and the chapel attached to it, are equipped with frescoes inside and out. Three layers made in three different periods can be seen in these frescoes, which are dated to the beginning of the 18th century.
It is known that in the years when the Russians occupied Trabzon and seized the monastery between 1916 and 1918, the monks living in the monastery took many things with them, especially the icon of St.
Sümela Monastery was reopened to visitors on June 1, 2020, after the restoration work continued for 4 years by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums. As part of the restoration works, the cliffs around the monastery, which pose a risk of falling, were brought under control by the industrial mountaineers with a steel mesh.
How to get to Sumela Monastery
Sümela Monastery is located in the south of Trabzon in Maçka district. To reach the monastery located in the Altındere Valley, you come to Altındere Village, which is about 16 kilometers east of Maçka, on the asphalt road. After that, the road leading to the monastery is steep and winding. When you arrive at the monastery, you get off the vehicle and continue on foot for another 300 meters.
The easiest way to reach Trabzon is to use the airway. Trabzon Airport is 50 km from Sumela Monastery. There are regular minibus services from Trabzon Bus Station to Maçka. You can also use the minibuses going to Sümela Monastery from Maçka center.
If you want to come with your private car, you can easily come to the monastery by following the signs of Maçka (Sumela) on the coastal road, accompanied by magnificent views. After reaching Trabzon, you reach the Altındere National Park, which also includes the Sümela Monastery, when you continue to the south about 26 km from the center of Trabzon and 16 km to the east from Maçka.
Although the road is asphalt, you can reach the monastery by minibuses by leaving your car in Trabzon or Maçka. The road to the monastery is quite steep and winding. It may be easier to reach by minibuses departing from the valley.
Sümela Monastery is one of the oldest churches in Anatolia and in the history of Christianity. The monastery, which is of great importance for the Christian world, is a corner of heaven in a lush oasis with its frescoes and magnificent scenery.