Sumela Monastery: Cliffside Miracle of the Black Sea
- Main church: Built around a natural cave where an icon of the Virgin Mary was found, the church has a mystical atmosphere, often heightened by mountain mists.
- Frescoes: Colorful decorations, inside and outside the church, date from the 9th through 19th centuries and depict stories about Christ and the Virgin Mary.
- Monastery buildings: Enter the courtyard with its sacred spring and see the bakery, kitchen, library, vaulted refectory, chapels, and rooms where monks lived.
About This Trabzon Tour
The legend tells us that angels carried an icon of the Virgin Mary to a cave on this mountainside in the 4th century. Crafted by St. Luke, one of Christ's disciples, the icon is believed to have miraculous powers. It inspired the creation of this numinous monastery – a miracle in itself.
The icon was discovered by two priests, Barnabus and Sophronius, as they travelled from Athens to Trabzon in the late 300s. Taking it as a sign, they decided to honor the Virgin Mary by building a church around the cave – a sacred hollow that can still be seen today. Over the centuries, the monastery gained considerable wealth and was expanded into the large and intricate complex that graces the cliffside.
In 1923, during the Turkish-Greek population exchange, the monks departed and the monastery abandoned. Forbidden to take anything with them, the monks hid the famous icon under a chapel floor. It was later secretly retrieved by a courageous monk and sent to the safely of a monastery in Greece. And just in time. Soon, vandalism, looting, and a 1930s fire took their toll on the forsaken Sumela Monastery.
Today, as this mystical structure is being restored, its Greek name continues to be a mystery. "Melas" means "dark" or "black," and many consider this to be a reference to the dark hues of the beautiful woods and mountains surrounding the monastery. But others believe it refers to the color of the icon itself, with its cracked, dark wooden surface. If so, this would be one of the rare and miraculous Black Madonnas that inspire ardent devotion by believers and pilgrims worldwide.
The mysterious Black Madonnas
Statues and paintings of Mary depicted with dark skin were created in Europe in medieval times and earlier. These enigmatic Black Madonnas have kept their secrets well. Some historians believe their color has cultural roots, while others think it could be a result of a sooty residue, perhaps from centuries of burning candles. Some believe they're a divine mystery – and ultimately inexplicable.
Please proceed pier side and look for our GoBe Representative with the displayed logo sign.
Expect dense traffic conditions in Trabzon. The visit to the Sumela Monastery involves very strenuous walking conditions where the participants must watch their step at all times in order to avoid injuries. Due to the nature of this tour, it is not recommended for persons who have difficulties in walking, climbing, and/or managing steps. Sumela Monastery operates from 08:00-17:30, closed on Mondays.
Due to the nature of this tour, it is not recommend for Travelers using walkers or wheelchairs. Participants must be able to walk approximately 1.5 miles over varying uneven terrain including cobblestone surfaces, steep inclines and 100 - 150 steps.
Cultural, Scenic, Walking Tour, Bus Tour
English, German, Spanish, French, Italian
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated strenuous. Travelers must consider their physical fitness level and medical history when determining whether this tour is appropriate. Travelers with pre-existing neck, back, knee and/or shoulder injuries, cardiac conditions, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, other heart or respiratory conditions or any other medical condition must take particular caution when selecting a tour categorized as "strenuous". If you have concerns, you must consult with your personal physician before engaging in any activity that may be too strenuous for you.
Suitable for all ages.
Special Medical Restriction
This tour is not recommended to travelers with walking difficulties or who cannot manage steps.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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