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The Sumela Monastery on the Web

Welcome to the my homage to the Sumela Monastery (Soumela, Soumelas), in the mountains above Trabzon, Turkey.

On this site

On this site you will find every useful link I could find about the monastery , links to the travel journals of those who have visited, many images of the monastery , including a gallery of my photographs .

The crown jewel and raison d'etre of this site is the high-resolution image gallery , of personal tourist photos. I visited the monastery in December of 2001. Unlike absolutely every other picture on the web, mine have snow! I rather liked it that way. And, of course, the monks didn't leave in the winter.

About the monastery

Legend has it that the monastery known as Panagia tou Melas ("Our Lady of Black Mountain"), later Sumelas or Sumela, was founded in the fourth century by Athenian monks named Barnabas and Sophronius. It was sacked in the seventh century, but rebuilt. It was richly endowed by the "pocket" Empire of Trebizond and by later Ottoman sultans. It's present form dates largely from the 19th century, when numerous monks entertained throngs of pilgrims, both Christians and Muslims, and presided over an important library.

The monks (and the books) left for good in 1923, during the "population exchanges" between Greece and Turkey. (A new Sumela monastery was founded in northern Greece which functions to this day.) The old one suffered from neglect and arson. The modern ruin-enchanted traveler should remember that the old monastery's picturesque remains are, as Neal Ascherson's puts it, "hate ruins, rather than time-ruins." Damage continues. More than one traveler notes with horror notes the walls thick with graffiti, in Turkish, Greek and a few other languages.

The monastery remains a exceptional, numinous place. I certainly found it so. Most tourists report the place is mobbed. As I was visiting it in the off off-period, during Ramadan, immediately following a major blizzard, my experience was rather different. Everything was covered with deep snow. I didn't meet a single tourist.

On the down side, I almost met a frozen or mangled death slipping and sliding down the snow-covered mountain path to get to the "main" road before nightfall. (Word to the wise: don't wear smooth-soled businessman shoes on a snowy mountain hike.) I would like to think some remaining sanctity protected me.

Comments, link suggestions and so forth are very much appreciated. My email is [email protected] .


Tim Spalding

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 New Site 

Check out my new site
Angels on the Web
with over 550 images.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

If you enjoy this site you may also like these other sites by me:

Justinian, Theodora and Procopius, a web directory about 6th-century Byzantium and its greatest historian.

Alanya, Turkey on the Web. Linked guide to my favorite Turkish town, Alanya.

Petra on the Web. Everything about the "lost" city of Petra in Jordan.

The Istanbul Mosaic Museum on the Web. About the museum and ancient mosaics in general.

( See all my sites )