Sumela Monastery: Turkey’s Mystical Stone Church

Many centuries ago, two Greek Orthodox priests from the city of Athens were traveling through a remote mountain range in Turkey. The priests stumbled upon an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave. The two Greek priests were so inspired by what they saw that they decided to construct a church in honor of the Virgin Mary on that very spot. The church that the two priests worked tirelessly to build eventually became known as the Sumela Monastery.

The Sumela Monastery is an impressive stone structure that blends seamlessly with the towering mountains that surround it. Legend states that an angel deposited the icon of the Virgin Mary that the two Greek Orthodox priests discovered in the Pontic Mountains. Since 386 AD, believers have traveled to the Sumela Monastery to stand beneath holy, healing drops of cold water that drip from the stone ceiling. Devout visitors believe that the pool in the center of the monastery contains healing waters that are blessed by the spirit of the Virgin Mary.

The monastery is on a ledge in a steep cliff

Photo via Wikipedia

The Sumela Monastery hosts a traditional Greek Orthodox mass once a year. Most days, the Sumela Monastery serves as an awe-inspiring stone museum that provides visitors of all faiths a compelling window into how religious devotion has evolved through the centuries. Regardless of your beliefs, catching a glimpse of the Sumela Monastery shrouded in mist will leave you breathless.

Sumela Monastery as illustrated in a postcard addressed in 1903

Sumela Monastery as illustrated in a postcard addressed in 1903

The "backyard" of the monastery today

The “backyard” of the monastery today

One look at the grand Sumela Monastery in Turkey’s Altindere Valley National Park will make you realize why various occupying forces who were hostile to Greek Orthodox practitioners left the monastery untouched. The Sumela Monastery is a magnificent architectural feat that will surely thrive for centuries to come. In recent years, the Turkish government has worked to restore this mystical structure that rests 1200 meters above a blanket of forests and meandering rivers.

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