Sumela Monastery is originally a monastery dedicated to Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother. The monastery was built on a steep hill and it was a place of seclusion in the early Christianity era. You can find facts about the history of Soumela Monastery in this article. In addition, the Sumela Monastery entrance fee and opening hours are also noted.
The monastery is located at Macka, on the skirts of Karadag Highland. It’s 1200 meters above the sea level and it overlooks Altindere Valley. The words that name the monastery, “Sou Mela” is actually the former name of Karadag Highland. Therefore, the monastery was named Soumela Monastery originally.
Sumela Monastery was active both during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire eras, however, it was deserted after the Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. And, due to a fire that broke out in 1930s, a big part of the monastery burnt down and turned into a ruin, but, thanks to the efforts made in recent years, the restoration of Sumela Monastery has been completed and it was opened to visiting.
Monastic Life in Early Christianity
Monastic Life in Early Christianity was on the rise in the 4th century, when the Sumela Monastery was also established. It is possible to see the traces of this period especially in Cappadocia. We’ll need to go into some detail to better understand this topic.
The period when Christianity was under the pressure during the Roman Empire era lasted for 300 years. During the period between 30, the death date of Jesus Christ, and 313, Christians faced heavy mistreatment. Finally, the Edict of Milan was declared by Emperor Constantine in 313 and the Christians were given the right to practice their religions freely.
After the fundamental principles of Christianity were established at the Council of Nicaea in 325, it began to spread in the Roman Empire rapidly. The amount of Christians was 10% percent in the empire compared to 90% pagans when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Then, things changed quickly and in the following years paganism disappeared from the Roman Empire.
In the 4th and 5th century, Christianity spread to vast areas. It was also the time when the philosophical foundations of Christianity were laid and the most important religious leaders in the history of Christianity came out during these years. A big portion of these figures were born, grew up, and became bishops in Anatolia. The most important of these bishops during the years when the Roman Empire was divided into two as the Western and Eastern Roman Empire, were Basil of Caesarea (Kayseri), Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom of Antioch (Antakya).
The followers of Christianity in its early years practiced their religions secretly in rural areas like Cappadocia, such as Ihlara Valley, or underground cities. Christians, after centuries of oppression, began to enjoy their freedom and practiced their religion. As Jesus Christ advised, they wanted to live a simple life and seclude themselves from material things. Therefore, there was a tremendous rise in seclusion and living the life of a monk. And Sumela Monastery was built at such a time. It was one of the hundreds of monasteries built in the Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantium) that included vast lands from the Balkans to Caucasus.
History of the Sumela Monastery
The history of the Soumela Monastery goes back to the 4th century. According to tradition, the location of this monastery was decided by two monks, who were later promoted to be saints. The monks named Barnabas and Sophronios saw Virgin Marry carrying baby Jesus in their dreams and they saw Virgin Mary point to a hill. When they woke up, the monks began their journey to find this place and came across each other exactly where Sumela Monastery stands today. They realized they had the same dream and concluded that it was a divine sign. This area was regarded as holy and Sumela Monastery was built in 386.
The construction of the monastery began at Theodosius I era in the Roman Empire and it was restored from time to time in various periods. For example, it was restored by Belisarius, a famous commander of Emperor Justinian, in the 6th century and it was restored a couple of more times during the Byzantine Empire era. However, it took its final shape in Empire of Trebizond era.
What Makes Sumela Monastery Sacred?
In Christianity, relics play an important role. For instance, you can see important icons as well as relics of various saints in churches. If there are relics related to disciples or saints, these relics increase the sentimental value of such churches.
What made the Soumela Monastery sacred was the icon of Panagia Soumela, which had a great spiritual significance in the Orthodox world. According to a belief, this icon was made and painted by Saint Luke, the disciple of Jesus and one of the authors of Bible. Therefore, this icon was believed to be a source of miracles.
The Icon of Panagia Soumela
The Icon of Panagia Soumela was buried underground of a church named St. Barbara Monastery by monks who left Turkey due to Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey and the icon stayed buried here for around 8 years. Later, the Greek PM Venizelos asked Turkish PM Ismet Inonu to return the icon in 1931.
Thanks to the special permission by Turkey, one of the monks that buried the icon during the exchange period came to Trabzon. The icon was found at St. Barbara Church and it was returned to Greece. This icon, highly sacred for the Christians, was preserved in Benaki Museum in Greece.
Later on, it was agreed that the icon should be preserved in a church due to its sentimental value. To that end, a church was built named “New Sumela Monastery” and the icon was placed in this church. Today, this church that houses the icon is regarded by the Orthodox believers as a spot on the way to pilgrimage.
Trabzon Sumela Monastery Entrance Fee 2022
Sumela Monastery entrance fee is 75 Turkish Liras as of 2022. Tickets are free for children under 8 years. Museum Pass Turkey is valid at the entrance to Trabzon Soumela Monastery.
The Latest Situation on the Restoration: Sumela Monastery was closed for a long time for restoration. It was opened to the public on July 1, 2021. But now it’s closed again. As of December 2021, it is still closed.
Trabzon Sumela Monastery Opening Hours 2022
Sumela Monastery opening hours are between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm in the summer season between 15 March and 15 October. It closes at 5:00 pm between 15 October and 15 March, which is considered the winter season. Sumela Monastery is open to visitors every day of the week.
Visiting times of the museum may change due to some events and renovations. Before going to the museum, I recommend you to visit the official website of Trabzon Sumela Monastery and review the latest situation.
Sumela Monastery Entrance Fee and Hours by Serhat Engul