Sümela Monastery reopens after rock is secured

Sümela Monastery reopens after rock is secured

Sümela Monastery reopens after rock is secured

Following 6-months of work to secure some 360 tons of rock mass to the hillside, the Sümela Monastery in the Black Sea province of Trabzon has been opened on May 1.

The monastery, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List since 2000, stands carved into the steep cliffside of the mountain 300 meters above the picturesque Altındere Valley.

The iconic structure was closed to visitors on Nov. 1, 2021, for the fourth time in five years due to restoration and slope improvement projects.

Experts, including professional industrial climbers, fixed the 360-ton rock mass, which posed serious risks, right above the monastery’s entrance to the slope with 16-meter-long steel stakes. They initially used steel wire mesh to secure the rock in an attempt to prevent blocks of rock from falling.

“Sümela will be ready on May 1. With this restoration, the visitors will safely wander inside the monastery,” Trabzon Governor İsmail Ustaoğlu said on April 30.

The monastery, also known as the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary, is believed to have been constructed by two monks in the late fourth century.

The monastery was reopened for religious practice on Aug. 15, 2010, with permission of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, following an 88-year hiatus. The country’s most important religious tourism center was first closed in 2015 due to a risk of falling rocks from nearby Mount Karadağ.

It was partly reopened to visitors in May 2019 after more than three years of restoration efforts.