Monastery Sumela in Bithynia et Pontus




Monastery Sumela  

The Sumela Monastery (Turkish: Sümela Manastiri) is a former Greek Orthodox monastery from Byzantine times. The monastery is located 45 km south of Trabzon in the Altindere National Park in the Zigana Mountains (East Pontisches Gebirge) at 1071 m altitude.
It is carved into the rock about 270 m above a gorge of the Altindere (in ancient times: Pyxites) and built. From 1628 to 1902 it housed the premises of the Phrontisterion, an important Pontos-Greek educational institution.

Paved section of the easier footpath  

Two roads lead up to the monastery. For passionate mountain hikers a 2 km long, steep footpath leads up. Most of the visitors, however, use one of the small buses that drive uphill into the vicinity of the monastery via a narrow but safe road. A bit less strenuous footpath, however, is not spared the visitor.


The Aqueduct  

An aqueduct built on the rock wall supplies the monastery with water and has since been restored. Visitors are hardly aware of the function of this arched construction.



The stairs to the entrance of the monastery


A long, narrow staircase leads to the entrance of the monastery, which is flanked by guard houses. Another staircase leads into the courtyard. The most important parts are the rock church, some chapels, study rooms, a guest house, library and the holy well.


View into the interior of the cave hidden behind the facade  



According to legend, the icon, which is said to have been painted by the evangelist Luke himself, was carried by two angels through the clouds into a cave in the - then - Pontic Mountains after his death. Two young hermits from Athens, Barnabas and his nephew Sophronios, were also invited by the angels to wander and discovered the icon in a cave in the middle of the forest near waterfalls.
This was probably in the year 385 and the cave was already inhabited by early Christian hermits, like so many others. The cave was extended and a chapel built in.

The descent into the inner courtyard  



Around 500 AD Emperor Anastasios supported the construction of a monastery. It was destroyed by fire in 640. The monk Christophoros from the monastery Vazelon rebuilt it. In the 12th century it was destroyed again, allegedly by robbers who were looking for the icon. The icon has been recovered from the river intact.





Painted cave church


The monastery received its present appearance in the 19th century, when buildings with monk cells were built in front of the actual rock church. When, after the First World War, the Greek population on the Pontos lost to Atatürk's troops in an attempt to establish their own republic, the monks were also forced to leave the monastery in 1926 due to the Greek-Turkish population exchange. The relics were hidden in a nearby chapel and could be brought to Greece in 1930 on intervention of the Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inönü. Today they are in the new foundation of the same name in Kastania / Veria, Greece.

Fresco in the cave church    
Photos: @chim    
Translation aid:    
Source: Wikipedia and others