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Top Destinations in Black Sea

Sumela Monastery

The Sumela Monastery is one of the oldest and most historic monasteries in the Christian world.   There are no exact records about when it was built or by who, but it is estimated that its history dates back some one thousand years and that the locals who constructed it did so to escape enemy attacks.  Located high up on the steep cliffs above the surrounding forest in Trabzon, Turkey, this incredible feat of architecture has changed hands many times over the course of its existence, until it was finally abandoned in 1923.

The Sumela monastery is located outside the Turkish city of Trabzon.  Standing on a steep cliff on the Zigana Mountains, it is popularly known as "Meryem Ana" (The Virgin Mary).  This building complex, which is located at a height of 1,200 meters (3,937 feet), is nearly 300 meters (984ft) high and follows a tradition of monasteries that were located outside cities in forests near caves and sources of water.  The road to get there is about 45 km (28 miles) from Trabzon and climbs steadily.  Upon arriving at the monastery, the structure appears almost glued to the mountainside.  The entrance is reached by climbing a long and narrow stairway where there is a large aqueduct at the top with many arches, which has mostly been restored.

Features of the Sumela Monastery
The main buildings of the Monastery complex are its Rock Church, chapels, kitchens, student rooms, a guesthouse, library and a fountain used to collect spring water from the mountain, which was revered by the Greeks. A large building in which a balcony on the front part of the cliff sits was used by monks and dates back to 1860. The influence of Turkish art can also be observed in the design of the cupboards, niches and fire-places in the rooms of the buildings surrounding the courtyard.

The Rock Church of Sumela

The Rock Church at Sumela is a very strange building. It appears to be wedged into the corner of the mountain, while the apse is made of brickwork. What makes this church so unique is that the interior, as well as the exterior, is covered in frescoes. The main subject of these frescoes are biblical scenes and scenes depicting the story of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The inner and outer walls of the Rock Church, as well as the walls of the adjacent chapel, were painted on three levels in three different periods that date back to the beginning of the 15th century.