The Sumela Monastery In Turkey Is Just Surreal

Held by the mountain Sumela Monastery © Sadik Gulec / Shutterstock 
Held by the mountain Sumela Monastery © Sadik Gulec / Shutterstock
Photo of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
7 November 2016

The Sümela Manastırı is a Greek Orthodox monastery that’s located within the Pontic Mountains in the Maçka district of Trabzon in Turkey. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the monastery is quite an unbelievable sight, nestled deep within a steep cliff at an altitude of around 1,200 meters.

Sumela was founded during the reign of Emperor Theodosius I in AD 386 and became famous all around for an icon of the Virgin Mary believed to have been painted by the Apostle Luke.

The Sumela Monastery - 1600 year old ancient Orthodox monastery of the Panaghia located at a 1200 meters height on the steep cliff | © WitR / Shutterstock
Held by the mountain Sumela Monastery | © Mehmet Cetin / Shutterstock 

The monastery fell into ruin several times during its existence, but was restored by various emperors, reaching its present form in the 13th century as it became very renowned during the Empire of Trebizond. It continued to enjoy protection under the emperors, as well as by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II.

Church in monastery Sumela | © Valery Shanin / Shutterstock
Interior artwork of Sumela Monastery | © Okyay / Shutterstock

Abandoned in 1923, due to a forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the monks buried the famous icon underneath the floor of Sumela’s St. Barbara chapel, where it was later retrieved in 1930 and taken to the new Panagia Soumela Monastery in Greece.

Known as the ‘Sümela Manastırı’ in Turkish, the monastery currently serves as a tourist attraction, but there’s also a renewed and welcomed flow of religious pilgrims from Russia and Greece.

Sumela Monastery | © Okyay / Shutterstock
Sumela is 1600 year old ancient Orthodox monastery | ©  Sadik Gulec / Shutterstock

The monastery includes several chapels, kitchens, student rooms, a guesthouse, a library and a holy spring. However, the Rock Church is most striking due to the many frescoes depicting biblical scenes from the story of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

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