Discovering the Enchanting Sumela Monastery in Turkey
If you are looking for a unique and breathtaking destination for your next travel adventure, you might want to consider visiting the Sumela Monastery in Turkey. This ancient Greek Orthodox monastery is perched on a steep cliff at an altitude of about 1,200 meters, overlooking the stunning Altindere Valley in the Trabzon Province of northeastern Turkey. In this blog post, we will explore the history, architecture and significance of this remarkable site, as well as some practical tips for visiting it.
The Sumela Monastery, also known as the Monastery of the Virgin Mary or Meryem Ana in Turkish, dates back to the 4th century AD, when it was founded by two Athenian monks named Barnabas and Sophronios. According to legend, they were guided by a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary that was painted by the Apostle Luke and hidden in a cave. The monastery was later enlarged and restored by various Byzantine emperors, especially during the 13th century, when it became a prominent religious and cultural center under the rule of the Empire of Trebizond. The monastery was endowed with rich donations, lands and privileges, and attracted many pilgrims, scholars and artists.
The monastery complex consists of several buildings, including a church, a library, a refectory, a guesthouse, a kitchen, a bakery, a fountain and several chapels. The most impressive feature of the monastery is the church, which is decorated with exquisite frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible and the lives of saints. The church also houses the holy icon of the Virgin Mary, which is said to have miraculous powers. The frescoes date from different periods, ranging from the 14th to the 19th centuries, and reflect the artistic styles and influences of each era.
The Sumela Monastery has witnessed many historical events and changes throughout its long existence. It survived several invasions, raids and fires, but also enjoyed periods of prosperity and peace. It was protected by the Ottoman sultans, who granted it special rights and exemptions. It also attracted many visitors from all over the world, who marveled at its beauty and spirituality. However, the monastery was abandoned in 1923, following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence. The monks left behind their precious belongings and manuscripts, some of which are now displayed in museums in Turkey and Greece.
The monastery remained closed and neglected for many years, until it was declared a national monument and a museum in 1964. Since then, it has undergone several restoration projects and reopened to the public in 2019. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, drawing thousands of visitors every year. It is also a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians, who celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th every year.
If you want to visit the Sumela Monastery, you will need to plan ahead and be prepared for some physical challenges. The monastery is located within the Altindere National Park, about 50 kilometers south of Trabzon city. You can reach it by car or by public bus from Trabzon or Macka town. However, you will still need to hike for about one kilometer on a steep and rocky path to reach the entrance of the monastery. The hike can take up to 30 minutes and requires good shoes and stamina. Alternatively, you can take a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the entrance for a small fee.
The entrance fee for the monastery is xyy Turkish liras (about 4-5 US dollars) per person. You can also hire a guide or an audio guide for an extra fee. The monastery is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm in summer (April to October) and from 9 am to 5 pm in winter (November to March). You should allow at least two hours to explore the monastery and enjoy its views. You can also visit the nearby Altindere Valley Visitor Center, where you can find information, souvenirs and refreshments.
The Sumela Monastery is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, culture and nature. It offers a rare opportunity to witness a masterpiece of Byzantine art and architecture in an awe-inspiring setting. It is also a testament to the rich and diverse heritage of Turkey and its people. Don't miss this chance to discover one of the wonders of the world!
If you decide to visit the Sumela Monastery, you will be captivated by its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. As you make your way through the steep and rocky path leading to the entrance, you'll feel a sense of anticipation building within you. Once you arrive at the monastery, prepare to be amazed by the striking architecture and the intricate frescoes that adorn the walls of the church.
Immerse yourself in the rich history of the monastery as you explore its various buildings. The library holds remnants of a bygone era, and the refectory offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the monks who once resided here. Take a moment to appreciate the serene surroundings and the breathtaking views of the Altindere Valley from the monastery's vantage point.
As you wander through the church, allow yourself to be transported back in time by the mesmerizing frescoes that depict biblical scenes and tales of saints. These vibrant artworks, created over centuries, reflect the evolving artistic styles and influences of different eras. Take your time to admire the details and craftsmanship that went into their creation.
While exploring the monastery, it's impossible not to feel a sense of spirituality and reverence. The holy icon of the Virgin Mary, said to possess miraculous powers, adds to the aura of sanctity that envelops the site. Remember to show respect and observe any guidelines or restrictions in place to ensure the preservation of this sacred space.
FAQs about the Sumela Monastery:
How do I get to the Sumela Monastery? The Sumela Monastery is located within the Altindere National Park, approximately 50 kilometers south of Trabzon city in northeastern Turkey. You can reach it by car or take a public bus from Trabzon or Macka town. From the parking lot, you will need to hike for about one kilometer on a steep and rocky path to reach the entrance of the monastery.
What are the visiting hours of the Sumela Monastery? The monastery is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm during the summer months (April to October) and from 9 am to 5 pm in winter (November to March). Please note that these hours are subject to change, so it's advisable to check the official opening times before your visit.
Is there an entrance fee for the Sumela Monastery? Yes, there is an entrance fee of 25 Turkish liras (approximately 3 US dollars) per person. Additional fees may apply if you choose to hire a guide or an audio guide for a more informative experience.
Can I visit the Sumela Monastery year-round? Yes, the monastery is open throughout the year; however, some facilities or paths may be closed or restricted during certain seasons due to weather conditions or maintenance work. It's recommended to check the latest updates and plan your visit accordingly.
Are there any other attractions near the Sumela Monastery? Within the Altindere National Park, you can also visit the Altindere Valley Visitor Center, which provides valuable information about the region, offers souvenirs, and has refreshment options. Additionally, the park offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and scenic viewpoints to further explore and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Embark on a journey to the Sumela Monastery and uncover the wonders of its history, artistry, and spirituality. Experience an unforgettable encounter with Turkey's cultural heritage amidst a breathtaking natural setting.