The Sümela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery, standing at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altındere valley, in the region of Maçka in Trabzon Province, modern Turkey. Lying at an altitude of approximately 1200 meters, it is a major tourist attraction of Altındere National Park.
Founded in the year 386 AD during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I, legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery on the site after having discovered a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain.
During its long history, the monastery fell into ruin several times and was restored by various Emperors. During the 6th Century AD, it was restored and enlarged by General Belisarius at the behest of Emperor Justinian.
It reached its present form in the 13th century after gaining prominence during the reign of Alexios III (1349 - 1390) of the Empire of Trebizond (established in 1204). At that time, the monastery was granted an amount annually from imperial funds. During the time of Manuel III, son of Alexius III, and during the reigns of subsequent princes, Sümela gained further wealth from imperial grants. Following the conquest by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1461, it was granted protection by order of the Sultan and given rights and privileges which were renewed by following sultans. Monks and travelers continued to journey there through the years, the monastery remaining extremely popular up until the 19th century.
The Monastery was seized by the Russian Empire during the occupation of Trabzon in the years 1916-1918. The site was finally abandoned in 1923, following the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey after the Treaty of Lausanne. In 1930, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, as well as other sacred treasures of the monastery, were transferred to the new Panagia Soumela Monastery, on the slopes of Mount Vermion, near the town of Naousa, in Macedonia, Greece.
On 15 August 2010 Orthodox Divine Liturgy was again allowed after decades in the monastery compound.