Sumela Monastery History Trabzon

Sumela Monastery History Trabzon

The Sumela Monastery is a historic Greek Orthodox monastery located on Melá Mountain within the Pontic Mountains in the Trabzon Province in northeast modern-day Turkey. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the Christian world, with its construction dating back to the 4th century. The monastery is a popular destination for travelers from all over the world, drawn to its stunning cliffside location at an elevation of 1,200 km (4,000 feet) above sea level [2].

Sumela Monastery History Trabzon
Sumela Monastery History Trabzon

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According to legend, the Sumela Monastery was founded by Barnabas and Sophranius, two Athenian priests who visited the region during the reign of Theodosius I. It is said that the icon of the Virgin Mary, believed to have been the work of Saint Luke, was carried to the Zigana Mountains of Trabzon by angels, only to be discovered by the two priests who established the monastery at the site where the icon was found [3].

Over the centuries, the Sumela Monastery has undergone many renovations and restorations. During the reign of the Comnenus dynasty in the 13th century, the monastery was expanded, and many new frescoes and mosaics were added. The most extensive renovations occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries when the complex was further expanded with the construction of additional chapels, living quarters, and other buildings [1].

The Sumela Monastery remained a significant religious and cultural center until the 20th century. However, in the years following World War I, the area became a part of the newly established Turkish Republic. As Turkey transitioned into a secular state, the Sumela Monastery lost its status as a place of religious worship, and the site was eventually abandoned [1].

In recent years, the Turkish government has made efforts to preserve and restore the Sumela Monastery, recognizing its importance as a historical and cultural monument. However, the monastery remains closed to visitors due to ongoing restoration efforts. Nonetheless, the Sumela Monastery continues to attract visitors from all over the world, drawn to its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful location in the heart of the Pontic Mountains [2].

While there are several articles and blog posts available online about the Sumela Monastery’s history, none of the sources provide a 3000-word comprehensive history of the site. However, by combining information from the available sources, it is possible to construct a detailed account of the monastery’s history from its founding to the present day.


Nestled in the rugged cliffs of the Altindere Valley, in the picturesque region of Trabzon, lies the magnificent Sumela Monastery. This ancient religious complex, carved into the side of a cliff, dates back to the 4th century AD and has been an important center of Orthodox Christianity in the region for centuries.

In this article, we will take you on a journey to the past and explore the history, architecture, and natural beauty of the Sumela Monastery. So, pack your bags and let’s get started!

History of Sumela Monastery:

The Sumela Monastery was founded in the 4th century AD by two Athenian monks, Barnabas and Sophronios. Legend has it that they discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary in a nearby cave and decided to build a monastery in her honor. Over the centuries, the Sumela Monastery grew in size and importance, becoming a center of Orthodox Christianity in the region.

During the Ottoman era, the monastery was partially destroyed, but it was rebuilt in the 18th century with the help of local rulers. The monastery reached its peak in the 19th century, when it housed over 100 monks and served as a center of education and culture in the region.

Architecture of Sumela Monastery:

The Sumela Monastery is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, with its stunning frescoes, arches, and domes. The monastery is built into the side of a steep cliff, 300 meters above the Altindere Valley, and can only be accessed by a narrow path.

The main chapel of the monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features a large fresco of her on the ceiling. Other buildings in the complex include the rock-cut kitchens, the library, the guesthouse, and the monk’s cells. The monastery also has a beautiful courtyard, surrounded by olive trees and gardens.

Natural Beauty of Sumela Monastery:

Apart from its historical and architectural significance, the Sumela Monastery is also known for its natural beauty. The Altindere Valley, where the monastery is located, is a lush green area, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls.

Visitors can hike along the valley, enjoying the scenic views, and take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear streams. The monastery also offers a panoramic view of the Black Sea, which is a sight to behold.


Q: Can I visit Sumela Monastery all year round? A: No, the monastery is closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. It usually opens in April and closes in October.

Q: Is there an entrance fee for Sumela Monastery? A: Yes, visitors need to pay a small entrance fee to enter the monastery.

Q: Is there a dress code to visit the monastery? A: Yes, visitors are expected to dress modestly and cover their heads and shoulders.


The Sumela Monastery is a must-visit destination for history and nature lovers alike. Its ancient history, stunning architecture, and natural beauty make it a unique and unforgettable experience. If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, make sure to include the Sumela Monastery in your itinerary. It’s a journey to the past that you won’t regret!

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