Sumela Monastery is one of the oldest Christian churches of our planet. Fully carved in a cave in the steep cliffs, it is located in Trabzon Province in northeastern Turkey. Nearby is the Black Sea coast of the country, and at the height of the cave monastery is a beautiful view of the located 350 m below, Altındere valley.
This monastery was established in honor of the Virgin Mary, or the Black Virgin of Sumela. Around it grow towering black pines, and quite often the monastery is sank in thick fog. Most can easily, you get to this part of Turkey by land at Trabzon airport, or you can take a ferry there.
The foundations of Sumela are placed in 386, during the reign of Theodosius I. According to legend, two Athenian monks - Barnabas and Sophronius, discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave in the vicinity of Trabzon. They decided to remain in that place and build a temple. This legend has no historical evidence, but this is the official version of the emergence of the temple.
It is believed that the icon that monks found was painted by St. Luke. In the following centuries the monastery Sumela tolerated much destruction and restoration. In the form that is still preserved, it was rebuilt by the Byzantines in the 13-14 centuries, in its very construction are used unprecedented at that time resources, given its complexity and location.
In 1340, Emperor Alexius III decided to extend the monastery and fully reconstructs it. His coronation takes place here, as in the main hall are preserved frescoes, illustrating the moment of him taking the crown. During the medieval centuries of cultivation, the cloister with frescoes and religious paintings continued.
In recent Greek-Turkish disputes after World War II, the Greeks had to leave the Turkish territory. Before they leave the cloister of the monastery Sumela, monks saved everything they could, including the icon that is hidden in a safe place.
The historical significance of Sumela and its popularity as a tourist site forces Turkish authorities to allocate funds for its restoration in the 90’s of last century.