12 June 2021
A project is being prepared for the restoration of the single-nave chapel hidden in the rocks of Sümela Monastery and registered as the “first group cultural property to be protected” in 2018. Trabzon Deputy Director of Culture and Tourism Mustafa Asan stated that they are planning to bring the chapel, which is estimated to have been built in the 18th century and contains many frescoes from the Bible, to tourism.
Project work has started for the restoration of the “hidden chapel”, which was located during the restoration of the Sumela Monastery, one of Turkey’s religious tourism centers, and was registered as the “first group cultural property to be protected” in 2018.
Sümela Monastery, which was built by carving the rocks in a forest area 300 meters above the valley at the foot of Karadağ overlooking Altındere Valley in Maçka district, was closed to visitors in September 2015 against the risk of rockfall and was taken under restoration.
Within the scope of the first stage of the restoration of approximately 50 million liras carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, rock improvement, outer courtyard, environmental arrangement and arrangement works were carried out.
In the framework of the second phase works, the temporary reinforcement of the rock mass called the “wedge block” located above the main entrance of the monastery was completed.
Within the scope of the third phase of the restoration, approximately 70 personnel, including engineers and industrial mountaineers, continue to work on barriers and permanent fixation of the wedge block rock mass to prevent rockfall.
The teams discovered a new chapel in the rocky area above the monastery, shortly after the restoration works started in the monastery, which is a first-degree archaeological site. It can be reached by crossing the path of approximately 50 meters.
Mustafa Asan, Deputy Provincial Culture and Tourism Director, stated that the chapel was registered as “the first group cultural property to be protected” within the scope of Article 6 of the Law No.
Stating that the single-nave chapel, which was built in small dimensions, was completely destroyed, the entrance section on the west side and the facade of this section facing the bedrock were completely destroyed, Asan said, on the south section consisting of the main rock, there are no frescoes and ornamental elements, and that the stone-paved upper cover was placed on the bedrock in the form of a porch He noted that the chapel, which was covered with a barrel vault from the inside, was supported by wooden beams. Noting that the apse section on the east side of the chapel, which is illuminated by two windows in the northern section, is one of the parts that have not survived, Asan gave the following information about the building:
Various scenes from the Bible are seen in the exterior of the chapel, on the entire northern façade, on the surviving wall of the western part, on the north façade and on the side surfaces of the window openings, on the surviving parts on the west and east façades, and on the entire vault joining the bedrock.
The frescoes on the walls of the chapel show the same characteristics as the frescoes adorning the walls of the bedrock church in our Sümela Monastery.
Stating that there is information that all the surfaces of Sümela were decorated with frescoes by the archbishop named Ignatios in 1749, Asan said, “Since the frescoes in this chapel show similar characteristics in style, the construction date of the chapel is likely to be in the first half of the 18th century. Some damage was done to the frescoes. Although it has survived to the present day, it is largely intact,” he said.
Stating that a project has been prepared within the scope of the restoration of the hidden chapel, Asan said: We are planning to bring the chapel to tourism after the studies to be carried out by the relevant institutions of our Ministry.
We have a work on the restoration of the chapel by the contractor company, but it is not included in the main restoration. A wooden road will be built to exit the pathway. Work on the restoration and survey of the chapel will be carried out.