Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew confirmed on Wednesday that a divine liturgy for the Feast of the Dormition of Virgin Mary – the equivalent of the Feast of the Assumption – will be held at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Soumela where the heart of Pontus Greek beats.
The Greek Orthodox Monastery in northern Turkey reopens for the divine liturgy on the Dormition of Virgin Mary on August 15, after five years of renovation works.
In a telephone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, the Ecumenic Patriarch thanked him for the systematic renovation at the monastery.
The impressive monastery is located at Karadag Mountain in the Pontic Mountains of Trabzon province.
Nestled in a steep cliff at an altitude of about 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) facing the Altındere valley, it is a site of great historical and cultural significance, as well as a major tourist attraction within Altındere National Park.
Due to an increase in rock falls, on 22 September 2015 the monastery was closed to the public for safety reasons for the duration of one year to resolve the problem; this was later extended to three years.
It foundation is dated around 386 AD, during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I (375 – 395).
According to several historianas, it was two Athenian monks who founded the monastery. It became famous for the icon of the Virgin Mary known as the Panagia Gorgoepekoos, said to have been painted by the Apostle Luke.
During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored by various emperors.
It reached its present form in the 13th century after gaining prominence during the existence of the Empire of Trebizond.
Following the conquest by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1461, it was granted the sultan’s protection and given rights and privileges that were renewed by following sultans. The monastery remained a popular destination for monks and travelers through the years.
Until the Russian occupancy in Trabzon (1916- 1918) , Sumela Monastery stayed active and visited by monks and Christian and Muslim pilgrimages.
In 1923, Ottoman Empire collapsed and after the National Liberty war, the independent Turkish Republic was founded by Ataturk. After 1923, Sumela Monastery was abandoned because of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey according to the Treaty of Lausanne.
Today Sumela Monastery is a museum open to visitors from all over the world, and the restoration work is funded by the Turkish Government.
On 15 August 2010, Orthodox divine liturgy was allowed to take place in the Sumela monastery compound.
A special pass issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is now required to visit on August 15, the day of the Dormition of the Theotokos or Feast of the Assumption, when a divine liturgy is held. Only 450 to 500 visitors are allowed inside the monastery.