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 HAGIA SOPHIA MONASTERY TRABZON

PART 10: Obscure Monasteries of Trabzon

 
More than a half dozen ruined monasteries are said to exist in the mountains of Maçka district. Hardly any visitor ever disturbs their peace. None rival the spectacle of Sumela, but two of them. in particular. may impress the adventurous traveler even more with their unspoiled ambience.
The Monastery of St. George in Peristera (known locally as Hızır Ilyas Manastırı is found near the village of Şimşirli (formerly Kutul). a bad 15 km drive from the tow n of Esiroğlu below Maçka. It crowns a rocky promontory which calls for a 45 minute climb. Its history is typical: founded under Justinian, it was rebuilt in the Middle Ages and aban¬doned in 1923. Very little that is worth seeing remains of the building itself, but the panorama arguably surpasses that of Sumela: the broad expanse of the Kuştul Valley is directly underfeet and Trabzon visible as a speck in the distance. The premises are overgrown with poison ivy and one suspects that no more than a handful of stray souls attempt the strenuous climb in any given year.
The Monastery of St. John the Baptist at Vazelon is even less accessible but far better preserved and more impressive. Built under Justinian and rebuilt in 1410, Vazelon used to rank next to Sumela in wealth and influence. As late as in 1903 its library contained an invaluable collection of manuscripts relating to the history of the Trebizond Empire.


The monastery is reached from the tinv village of Kiremitli 14 km above Maçka on the main road. The six kilometers on the dirt road from there to Vazelon are not easy ones but aside from a bruised muffler a car should survive.
Although the building itself is in ruins, a sense of monastic serenity pervades the grounds. Hidden chambers and cave-like enclosures abound, arousing the strong temptation to look for some undiscovered gem-an ancient icon or maybe some silver coins? The triple-naved church is covered with a collection of vibrantly colored frescoes which apparently date to the 16th century. As in Sumela, each vandal has signed his name proudly along with the date next to the gaping hole from where he lifted a fresco piece: a Greek in 1907, an Armenian in 1921 and a Turk in 1987. Despite the plunder one can still admire some very fine scenes, including a powerful Last Judgement.

 

 

 

PART 1: Imagined Empire
PART 2:
The Main Square
PART 3:
A Long Walk
PART 4:
Atatürk House
PART 5:
Bazaar District
PART 6:
Hagia Sophia
PART 7:
Boztepe
PART 8:
Rising Above
PART 9:
Lady of the Mountains
PART 10:
Obscure Monasteries
PART 11:
The Way to the Pass
PART 12:
Gümüşhane

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