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The Sümela Monastery (Turkish: Sümela Manastırı, Greek: Μονή Παναγίας Σουμελά), is a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary at Melá mountain, in the region of Maçka in the Trabzon Province of modern Turkey. Nestled in a steep cliff at an altitude of about 1,200 meters facing the Altındere valley, it is a site of great historical and cultural significance, as well as a major tourist attraction of Altındere National Park.
The monastery was founded in 386 AD during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I (375 - 395). Legend has it that two priests undertook its creation after discovering a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain. During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored by various emperors. The site was abandoned in 1923, following forced population exchanges between Greece and Turkey. The departing monks were not allowed to take any property with them, so they buried Sumela famous icon under the floor of the monastery St. Barbara chapel. In 1930, a monk secretly returned to Sumela and retrieved the icon, transferring it to the new Panagia Soumela Monastery, on the slopes of Mount Vermion, near the town of Naousa, in Macedonia, Greece. The inner and outer walls of the Rock Church and the walls of the adjacent chapel are decorated with frescoes. Frescoes dating from the era of Alexios III of Trebizond line the inner wall of the Rock Church facing the courtyard. The frescoes of the chapel which were painted on three levels in three different periods are dated to the beginning of the 18th century. The frescoes of the bottom band are of superior quality. The frescoes of the Sümela Monastery are seriously damaged. The main subject of the frescoes are biblical scenes telling the story of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
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