Monastery on rocks needs restoration
ERZURUM – Anadolu Agency
AA photoThe Solomon Monastery, which was carved out of the rocks in the eastern province of Erzurum’s Şenkaya district nearly 1,000 years ago, is in need of restoration to attract more tourists according officials.
“The monastery was taken under protection and its destruction was prevented. We also demanded the Culture and Tourism Ministry restore the monastery. The answer was that the restoration works would be conducted in the coming years. Nothing has done so far made. We call for the ministry officials to support our village to be open to tourism,” said Rasim Gülle, the headman of the Evbakan neighborhood in which the monastery is located.
The monastery features Jesus Christ in the arms of the Virgin Mary, as well as a cross carved on rocks and various figures.
The monastery receives between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors a year during certain seasons, but it can only be reached after a difficult journey.
The monastery is currently a protected site as designated by the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board, said Şenkaya District Gov. Ahmet Özkan said.
Information about the Solomon Monastery’s establishment is not certain, but it is believed to date back 1,000 years ago, Özkan said.
“Because it is a sensitive structure, the restoration process is progressing very slowly. A plan should be prepared and its originality should be kept. It is a historic place and there are worries about harming it. Sometime soon, an arrangement will be made,” the district governor said.
“Georgians lived here for a long time. This place was constructed on steep rocks. Water was brought to the monastery by carving the rocks. Pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ are in the monastery. There are rooms and various sections. Unfortunately, it was plundered and damaged in recent years by treasure hunters,” Gülle said.
Gülle said he delivered photos of the monastery to the board and demanded the structure be taken under better protection.
Monastery served as seminary
Gülle said the monastery was believed to have served as a seminary for nuns.
“We have learned from Georgian tourists that this was a seminary. Sisters used to be trained here. One of the most important reasons why it was constructed on steep rocks was to train sisters and security. It dates back to the Byzantine era and it took the name Solomon after it was taken over by the Georgians,” Gülle said.
Gülle said the monastery had rooms, rock tombs and some sections as well as a pulpit for the priest.
“This place is nearly 700 meters above sea level and 300 meters above the neighborhood. It is very hard to reach here. This is why the construction of stairs and a road here will make travel easier for tourists,” he said.