Located at 46 km south of Trabzon, the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary, better known as Sumela Monastery (Sümela Manastırı), is certainly one of the highlights of a visit to the Black Sea region.
History of Sumela
The monastery was founded in AD 386 and was famous for the possession of an icon of the Virgin Mary, said to have been painted by the Apostle Luke. The name Sumela derives from the Greek Panagia tou Mela, meaning Virgin of the Black Rock, which was shortened and in the Pontic dialect was pronounced sou Mela (at the Black Rock). After the conquest of the Black Sea region by Sultan Mehmed II in 1461, the monastery came under the protection of the sultan himself and was given rights and privileges that were renewed by the following sultans.
After the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 and the forced exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, Sumela was abandoned. Before fleeing their monastery, the monks buried the holy icon and other sacred objects at the nearby the Church of St. Barbara. In 1930, a fire destroyed the wooden buildings of the monastery. Afterwards, weather conditions, looters, and vandals severely damaged the remains.
With the official permission of the Turkish government and the help of Turkish soldiers (and not in secret as is claimed by some guidebooks and other sources), the sacred icon and other objects were retrieved and brought to Greece in 1931. The famous icon of the Virgin Mary is now kept at a monastery near Mount Vermio in Greece (source: Orthodox Wiki).
Since 1992 reservation works have been carried out and Sumela monastery is now a major tourist attraction, a well as a place of pilgrimage to Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians. In 2010, with the approval of the Turkish Government, a ceremony was organized for the feast of the ascension of the Virgin Mary, officiated by the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch.
Sights & Photos of Sümela
Sumela is a mysterious place, with the monastery that clings to a sheer rock wall and mists swirling through the tree-lined Altındere valley. A visit to the monastery takes a 30-minute climb along an often slippery woodland trail, but there is an alternative path that is more convenient.
Travel Information & Travel Tips
If you don't have your own car, there are plenty of agencies in Trabzon that offer half-day trips to Sumela sometimes combined with a city tour of Trabzon. Mavi Dünya EYCE Tur, Gazipaşa Mahallesi, Mektep Sokak, Otopark İçi, Canbakkal İş hanı; No. 11 (Tel. +90 (462) 326 63 37) offers a good half-day tour to Sumela in mini-bus.