A rocking monastery

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About 1600 years ago two Greek orthodox monks found what they believed to be an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave halfway up a massive cliff about thirty minutes drive from modern Trabzon. They thought the logical response was to construct a monastery there, and so their discovery gave root to Sumela monastery. Today the monastery still stands on an impossibly difficult site, but visitors are more likely to be tourists than monks.

My lingering question is why the monks were wandering in the cave to start with. Maybe they were looking for icons but it would have been a helluva climb (and making chocolate may have been just as prodctive). Even today, with the aid of a road and a staircase or two, the monastery is still tough to get to. And the fact that something so grand was built there is nothing short of extraordinary. It stands on a beautiful bluff, looking out over the valley. Inside, a range of frescoes are still more or less intact, though many have suffered graffiti. I guess that’s what you get for being a Christian sight in a predominantly, and at some points in history fiercely, Muslim country.

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