Expressing an important value among the places you should go to in Trabzon, one of the most beautiful cities of the Black Sea, Sumela Monastery was built on steep cliffs in Altındere Village located within the borders of Maçka district of Trabzon. It is known by the name of "Mama Maria" among the people. Located approximately 300 meters above Altındere village, the Virgin Mary was built in accordance with the tradition of steep cliffs, forests, and caves, which are traditional monastery construction sites. The monastery, which was founded in reference to the Virgin Mary, took the name Sumela from the word molasses, which means black.
Etymology of the Name Sumela
It is understood that the name of Sumela comes from the word "molasses" meaning black, black darkness in the local language of the years when the monastery was built, and the name of the region is Oros Melas. The original name of the monastery is "Panagia Sou Melas". In the Ottoman Empire records, the monastery takes place as “Su(o)Mela
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How is Sumela Monastery?
Construction of Sumela Monastery
The Sumela monastery is an enormous complex that was built over time with new parts added as needed. The frescoes adorning the inside of the monastery were made in different periods; It is clearly seen in architecture, painting style, stonework, and settlement styles. In the first years of its establishment, there was no magnificent front facade and monastery section, which is like a medieval castle that adorns postcards today. The cave is located to the north of the temple, and the monk cells, chapels, and bell tower described above were built intertwined with labyrinth-like winding interconnections. The style and painting style of the frescoes on the walls of the chapels are very similar to those in the other maid Monastery in Trabzon. The figure of a deer, probably a symbol of immortality in early Orthodox Christian art, depicted on the exterior of the chapel next to the bell tower, can still be seen from the main courtyard of the Monastery. A similar deer painting outside the chapel next to the bell tower was also found in the Cappadocia Geyikli Church.
Access is provided by narrow stairways between the chapels and cells, and life in this part of the Monastery complex differs greatly from the luxury life on the front, with large rooms, magnificent balconies, and views, beds, and comfort facilities. Equipped with nested cell houses and chapels, this part was used by monks and had a standard of living suitable for the ascetic, ascetic life preferred by the monks.
Sumela Monastery Winter
Parts of the Sumela Monastery
Main Rock Church, chapel, kitchen, student rooms, guesthouse, library, and holy spring. This group of buildings was built on a very large area. The large aqueduct, which is understood to provide winter water to the entrance of the monastery, is leaning on the slope. A large part of this arch, which has many sections, has been destroyed. The main entrance of the monastery is reached by a long narrow staircase. There are some guardrooms next to the entrance. It is possible to go down to the inner courtyard by a ladder from here. On the left, there are various sections in front of the cave, which forms the basis of the monastery and was turned into a church. The library is located on the right. The balcony section covering the front of the slope, which is understood to have been built in 1860, was used as monk's rooms and guest rooms.
The central inner and outer walls of the monastery are decorated with frescoes. On the wall facing the courtyard inside the rock church, III. The existence of frescoes belonging to the Alexios period was determined. The frescoes in the chapel, on the other hand, were made in the early 18th century, and there are three layers that were made in three different periods. Its frescoes downstairs are of good quality. The main subjects dealt with in the frescoes, which were dismantled and have a very dilapidated appearance, were taken from the Sumela Monastery, scenes from the Bible, Jesus and St. Depictions of the life of Mary
Ancient Monastery Built On a Cliff
Sumela Monastery in The Last Century
With the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the activities of the monastery came to an end. In the same year, according to the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Greek citizens of the region were sent to Greece, and priests and monks immigrated to Greece. When the clergy left, they took some of the valuables with them. The remaining items were looted by collectors in later years. In the following years, it was understood that the clergy buried some of the valuables they could not carry in and around the Monastery. The search for treasure and excavation destruction, believed to have been buried in the Sumele monastery since 1923, continues as a tradition.
With the hope that the monastic officials will come back one day; While leaving the monastery, three holy objects that made Sumela a place of pilgrimage; The icon of the Blessed Virgin, believed to have been depicted by the Apostle Luke, the copy of the Bible written on parchment by Saint Christopher, and the King of Komnenos III. They hid the piece of the holy cross, which had been donated to the Monastery by Manuel, by burying it in the Chapel of St. Barbara.
Since the monastery was on the crossing route of shepherds who were unprotected between 1923 and 1970 and were taking their small and large cattle to the plateau, it became a safe place of accommodation and shelter for them at night. In the 1930s, British professor of fine arts D. Talbot Rice examined the Orthodox monasteries and churches in Trabzon and made an inventory of frescoes and sekkos. He says that in the years after 1924, a goat herder who settled in the region started to use Sumela Monastery as an accommodation place with his goat herd because it was a safe place.
It is said that one of the goat herders forgot a burning fire in the Monastery, and with the effect of the strong wind that broke out at night, the fire, which was forgotten inside, spread to the wooden sections of the Monastery, most of which were built of thick chestnut wood, which has the feature of very fast burning, and the whole complex was completely burned in this way. Although the exact date of the fire is not known, it marks the year 1937.
Eleftherios Venizelos, the Greek Prime Minister of the time, who immigrated from Trabzon in 1931, brought this situation to the agenda in a meeting with Prime Minister İsmet İnönü and asked for permission to take the belongings to Greece. İsmet İnönü responded positively to Venizelos' request. Ambrosios, one of the monks of Sumela, is tasked with taking the sacred objects from their burial place and taking them to Greece. Ambrosios took the sacred objects from the place where they were buried in the Chapel of St. Barbara on October 22, 1931, and took them to Greece. The sacred objects were put in the Benaki Museum of Athens and kept here for twenty years, then they were placed in the "Nea Soumela Monastery '' built-in Karaferya.
In 1950, a monastery called Karaferya (today Veroia) was built in the region, which is very similar to the Black Mountains where Sumela is located in Trabzon in terms of its natural structure, wildlife, and vegetation. According to the Orthodox belief, Nea Soumela was placed in the New Sumela Monastery, which was built in Karaferya on August 15 (1951), the date when the Virgin Mary ascended into the sky, thus making this place a pilgrimage and pilgrimage site.