‘The closure of the Sümela Monastery is a blow to the freedom of belief’

TRABZON – Sümela Monastery located in the Maçka district of Trabzon has been closed to visitors by the Ministry of Tourism since September 22, 2015 with the claim that it will be restored. While the monastery hasn’t been reopened to visitors even if 14 months have been passed, Sociologist Gizem Tepe described the situation as a blow to freedom of belief.

Located in the Maçka district of Trabzon, the world-famous historical Sümela Monastery was closed to visitors on September 22, 2015 by Ministry of Tourism with the claim that it will be restored. On the webpage of the ministry, it is written, “Rockwall events that threaten the safety of life and property of visitors have been occurring around the monastery. For this reason, a research- empowerment works have been begun in the region.” In the statement, it is stated that the restoration works would be ended in one year; however the Sümela Monastery hasn’t been reopened to visitors yet and the Ministry of Tourism hasn’t made any statement on this situation.

Sociologist Gizem Tepe, who visited the monastery in 2014, stated that the monastery is an important archaeological and socially value and said that, “Once, the people were able to do perform the ritual and worship. Those who wanted to see it could go and see it as touristic purpose. It has a very important archaeological value. Then it became a place where the people could perform worship partly. But now, it is aimed to be used completely for tourism and rent purpose.

“A person, who wanted to perform worship there, gave money to enter and it was a blow to freedom of belief. And now, the freedom of belief has been directly ignored by closing the monastery.”

Why is Sümela Monastery important?

According to many historians, the monastery, built in the 13th century, is an important masterpiece that must be taken under UNESCO protection. Rumor has it that, Barnabas and Sophronios, two Athenian monks, had a dream of Virgin Mary and the Virgin Mary asked the monks to build a monastery and told them where and how they build the monastery. The monks carried an icon said to have been painted by the Apostle Luke. They came to Trabzon from Athens and found a cave. They enlarged the cave and built two chapels in it. Over time, the monastery becomes famous in the world.

In 2010, the monastery was opened to worship and 367 thousands 84 domestic tourists and 28 thousands 897 foreign tourists visited the monastery.