Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery, devoted to the Virgin Mary, nestled into the side of the Melá Mountain, in the Maçka district of Trabzon. In Turkish, the mountain is known as Karadağ, which is a direct translation of the Greek name Sou Melá, meaning “Black Mountain”.
At an altitude of about 1,200 metres and overlooking the Altındere valley, Sumela sits within Altındere National Park.
The monastery was founded in AD 386 by two Athenian monks, and became famous for its icon of the Virgin Mary, said to have been painted by the Apostle Luke.
During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and subsequently restored by various emperors. It was finally abandoned in 1923, following the Turkish/ Greek population exchange. The monks who resided at Sumela at the time were not allowed to take any of their property with them, so they hid the icon under the floor of the monastery’s St. Barbara chapel.
In the 1930s a monk secretly returned to Sumela and recovered the icon, taking it to the Panagia Sumela Monastery, on the slopes of Mount Vermion, in Macedonia.
A fire destroyed the wooden parts of the Sumela Monastery and in the following years, looters and vandals also damaged other parts of the Monastery. However a restoration project took place to restore the monastery to its former glory and, in doing so, uncovered tunnels leading to hidden chambers beneath.
Whilst striking to view in its own right, the monastery also affords stunning view of the forests and streams below, and is considered to be one of the most important historic and touristic venues in Trabzon.