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 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.
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.
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.