Maçka is a town and district of Trabzon Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The fame of the Sumela Monastery usually overshadows its nearby host - the town of Maçka situated 30 kilometers away from Trabzon, even though Maçka is one of the most beautiful locations of the Eastern Black Sea region in the Altındere Valley. Nature is so vibrantly abundant in this area that it makes one shake their head. There are ruins of two other famous monasteries at Maçka:the Vazelon in the village of Kiremitli and the Kuştul in the village of Şimşirli. The road to Kuştul with its crystal clear streams and wooden bridges is an additional incentive for trekkers and nature lovers to visit the area.
In difficult time for the Christians in the 15 and 16th centurys, the residents were well behaved and disciplined, and large scale Islamization didn't occur in the region. Another reason for this phenomenon was the presence of The Sumela, Bazelon and Peristerota monasteries. Apart from these three male centric monasteries, there were also two female centric monasteries: The Monstery of Panagia Kremastis and The Monastery of Saint John . Maçka was also home to an additional 64 Parish churches and 225 Chapels. Just prior to the population exchange 1923 there were 3 philanthropic educational brotherhoods and 2 charitable brotherhoods in the region. The majority of residents were cattle-breeders and farmers and few undertook more skilled labor. Migration was primarily to Russia and Constantinople with the majority of those who immigrated doing so to avoid being drafted into the army. Women were very active in cattle farming and work in general, especially keeping the mountain plains in good order.
The Sumela Monastery at Maçka has been referred to as the Monastery in the Clouds with its origin credited to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, but this has never been confirmed. But in 1340 the Emperor Alexius Comnenus staged his coronation ceremony there and even observed a great solar eclipse from its mountainside vantage point. Its past is hidden in mystery making its presence as mystifying as is its spectacular setting. Legends are various ranging from the smuggling to Athens of the monastery icon of the Virgin Mary, alluded to have been painted by the Gospel writer St. Luke himself, to the fate of the golden candelabra bestowed on the monastery by Sultan Selim I following his defeat of Shah Ismail and the Safavid Persians in 1514.
“ The road took us higher and higher and seemed to have no end. We were climbing to the summit through a dense forest of trees. A fine drizzle seemed to hang in the air. As we climbed, the roar of the waterfalls, like white tassels on a green dress, rushing down the slopes to mingle with the river in the valley below grew fainter and fainter. Just when my leg muscles were about to give out, we spotted the monastery from an opening in the foliage. Not a monastery but an apparition reposing in stone, a rock utopia. When I reached it, the winged horses of my imagination suddenly fled to the sky’s grey expanse. Embedded in the belly of the rock, the ruins of the monastery looked out over a deep chasm. From between the rocks water dripped into the monastery from above, while people of diverse religions, murmuring prayers, drank from its sacred spring. A portion of the frescoes had been cut out like pieces of pie years ago and smuggled off to who knows where.” ~
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