Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 15 August 2010

Orthodox Christians attend historic Mass at Turkish monastery

Although I am in no way religious I was really interested to read this article in the Deutsche Welle website as the Sumela Monastery was one of the places I was determined to visit during a visit thirty-three years ago to the Trabzon (Trebizond) Province of Turkey on the north-east Black Sea coast of the country.

When I visited in late-March 1977 it was way off the route that most visitors to Turkey followed - I arrived in the town of Trabzon after a 3-or-so-day trip on the coastal ferry from Istanbul, basically so I could visit the monastery, built into the face of rather vertiginous cliffs. Then I hired a car with driver for a day so he could take me up into the hills on a rather treacherous mountain-side road to visit it, with so far as I recall a 10 or 15 minute walk up a very disused track to the monastery itself. Although by that time the monastery was fenced off by the Culture Ministry in an effort to control access and halt the vandalism that had taken place there since the monastery was abandoned in the 1920s (read more about the Sumela Monastery here - click on the photographs there to see enlargements; the first in particular can be clicked a second time to view a very large high-resolution photograph), with most of the faces on the frescoes throughout the monastery having been defaced.

There are some excellent photographs of the service at Sumela Monastery this weekend in the BBC website here.

During my time in eastern Turkey, although the trip was very enjoyable and interesting, I did develop severe stomach problems (from unpasteurised yoghourt I think) so I got out of there after 3 or 4 days and flew to Ankara (a rather dreary modern city by my recollection) where I spent a few days in a very good hotel, to aid my stomach on its way to recovery, before flying on to Rome in time for Easter, during the penultimate year of the Papacy of Pope Paul VI. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article I am not religious, nor therefore am I a Roman Catholic, but being present in St Peter's Square (fairly close to the obelisk from the Circus of Nero in the centre) in the Vatican City on Easter Sunday was a memorable experience, even if the Pontiff giving his Urbi et Orbi blessing was just a tiny figure in the distance up on the balcony.

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