Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery

ocation: 55 km (34 mi) Southeast of Trabson, Trabzon Province Map

Tel. (0462)230 19 66

Open: May- Oct: 8am- 6pm daily

Nov- Apr: 9am- 3pm daily



Sumela Monastery (Greek: Panagia Sumela (Παναγία Σουμελά) or Theotokos Sumela) is located on the western slopes of Meryem Ana Creek (Ancient Greek name: Panagia) within the borders of the Altındere Valley National Park in the Maçka district of Trabzon province. It is a Greek Orthodox monastery and church complex located on the Mela hill at an altitude of 1,150 m above sea level.



It is thought that the church was built between 365-395 AD. It was built in the style of Cappadocian churches, which are common in Anatolia; There is even a similar cave church in Maşatlık in Trabzon. Not much is known about the thousand-year period between the first founding of the church and its transformation into a monastery. According to a legend told among the Black Sea Greeks, two monks named Barnabas of Athens and Sophronios had the same dream; In their dreams, they saw Sumela as the place where the icon of Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms was located, one of the three Panagia icons made by St. Luke, one of Jesus' disciples. Thereupon, they came to Trabzon by sea, unaware of each other, met there, told each other about the dreams they had seen, and laid the foundation of the first church. In addition, it is frequently featured in the frescoes in the monastery and given special importance to the Emperor of Trebizond III. It is thought that Alexios (1349-1390) was the real founder of the monastery.

There was no change in the status of the monastery, which served as an outpost in the defense of the city, which was exposed to Turkmen raids in the 14th century, after the Ottoman conquest. It is known that Yavuz Sultan Selim gifted two large candlesticks to Trabzon during his princedom. Fatih Sultan Mehmed II. Murat, Selim I, II. Selim III. Murad, İbrahim, IV. Mehmed II. Suleiman and III. Ahmed also has edicts regarding the monastery. The privileges granted to the monastery during the Ottoman period created an area surrounded by Christian and secret Christian villages, especially in Maçka and northern Gümüşhane, during the Islamization of the Trabzon and Gümüşhane region.

During the Russian occupation, which lasted from April 18, 1916 to February 24, 1918, it became the headquarters of the Greek militias who wanted to establish an independent Pontus state, like other monasteries around Maçka, and lost its importance after the Christians in the region were sent to Greece with the population exchange. It was abandoned to its fate until it was recently repaired by the Ministry of Culture.

Black Sea Greeks who migrated to Greece through population exchange built a new church in the city of Veria, which they called Sumela. Every year in August, they organize widely attended festivals around the new monastery, just like they did in Trabzon Sumela in the past.

In 2010, with the permission of the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the first mass was held after 88 years on August 15, which is considered sacred by Christians as the day of the Virgin Mary's ascension to heaven, and the ceremony was led by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul, Bartholomew I.


Religious meaning

The monastery is an important place of pilgrimage for Christians. It is dedicated to the “Panagia tou Melas” (All Saints of the Black Mountain), the mother of Jesus Christ, for Muslims the mother of the Prophet Isa, by whom it is also called “Meryem ana manastırı” (Mother Mary Monastery).

The relics in the monastery included, among others, the above-mentioned: Icon said to have been painted by the evangelist Luke and a splinter of the cross on which Jesus died. With this cross relic, the water from the sanctifying well was consecrated every month, which the pilgrims used against all imaginable sufferings.

In 2005 it was announced that Sumela, “one of the most important monasteries in Christianity,” was to be reopened as a monastery, according to Turkish authorities. In 2010, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I submitted a request to the Turkish government to be allowed to preside over a Divine Liturgy there for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 15th. The application was approved by the AKP government on June 8th by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his then Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Günay, and the liturgy was held on August 15th with great participation from Orthodox Christians. On August 15, 2015, the sixth Christian Orthodox pilgrimage in a row since 2010 took place. The focus was on the peace message of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and his call to end the bloodshed between the PKK and Turkey.



A long, narrow staircase leads to the entrance to the monastery, which is flanked by guardhouses. Another staircase leads to the inner courtyard.

The most important parts are the rock church, some chapels, study rooms, a guest house, library and the holy well. An aqueduct built on the rock face supplies the monastery with water and has now been restored.

The library is on the right side in front of the cave church. Sixty-six of the manuscripts, mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries, have been cataloged and are now in the Ankara Museum. Another 1,000 Tetra Gospels (The Four Gospels) from the Byzantine period decorated with miniatures are in the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul. Of the other treasures of the monastery, a silver cross relic of Manuel III, a handwritten manuscript and a large number of documents are in the Museum of Byzantine Art in Athens, an icon of the monastery "Lady of the roses" is now in the National Gallery in Dublin. Others are privately owned and in the Benaki Museum in Athens.

The Turkish influence can be seen in the design of the cupboards, niches and fireplaces in the buildings around the courtyard.



The interior and exterior walls of the rock church and the adjacent chapel are decorated with frescoes. The depictions on the inside of the wall facing the courtyard of the rock church date from the time of Alexios III. The portraits of Alexios and Manuel no longer survive. The exterior frescoes date from the early 18th century and depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the Council of Nicaea-Nicaea.

Parts of a large depiction of the apocalypse have been secured. A dragon and two mounted saints (Georgios and Demetrios) are painted on the wall of a small chapel. Beneath the visible layer of paint, three additional layers were discovered. At the top of the lowest layer the figure of a ruler with a diadem was found, a similar figure was painted over it and above it a metamorphosis - The change of Christ's gaze on Mount Tabor. 100 m north of the monastery there are chapels, also carved into the mountain and decorated with frescoes.

Since 1998, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been restoring the monastery, the frescoes are being cleaned and restored, and the main building has received a new roof.