|Sumela from one end of Altindere valley|
|The valley, from the entrance to the monastery|
|Looking out one of the |
|The Ecumenical Patriarch entering the monastery, |
with entourage. Did I mention that this
place is on the side of a cliff?
A few thousand pilgrims came from Greece, Russia, Georgia, and the US, as well as Turkey's own Greek Orthodox population. Most of the pilgrims were descendants of Pontic Greeks who left in 1923, although for the last ten years they have been returning to Trabzon every summer on holiday, to see their old villages and to find the few remaining speakers of their own dialect of Greek. A few villages high in the mountains still have Pontic Greek speakers, Muslim Turks who are as valuable for their cultural preservation as for their utility as guides in the tourism sector. (It's a strange world we live in, in this modern era.) In my hotel, the night before the liturgy, the Greek tourists all gathered in the rooftop restaurant with musicians and cameras to dance the dances their parents and grandparents had taught them. My host and guide for the weekend, the hotel owner, told me that the instruments, music, and dance steps are indistinguishable from the traditional dances of the region. The music was even passingly familiar to me from Azerbaijani folk music, which isn't surprising given that Trabzon is in the foothills of the Caucasus. Most of the time, an old Greek man played the kemenche and sang the accompaniment, but at one point a young Turkish man played while a young Greek sang. Many of the older pilgrims wept during this song, and at the end the room was filled with deafening cheers from the visitors as well as the locals, who had called their friends to come see the sight.
|The dude on the right has a kemenche. I have no idea what |
role it has in the liturgy, but there you go, visual evidence.
|My host and guide, Gokhan, with his son Batuhan|
I'm not an expert on Orthodox ceremonies, so if anyone can weigh in and explain the photos I've taken or correct my terminology, by all means, do so.
|The crowd of pilgrims at the heart |
of the monastery, with a view of
the mountains outside the walls
|Pilgrims lighting candles |
outside the monastery
|The makeshift altar, framed |
by the old frescoes on the walls
of the monastery buildings
|The Ecumenical Patriarch holding a |
crucifix aloft during the liturgy
|Reading aloud at the altar|
|Clerics watching the ceremony and the |
crowd. No one's immune to technology!
|One Russian pilgrim near me|
|Pilgrims kissed this icon after the ceremony|
|Communion bread is distributed |
through the crowd
Sadly, the frescoes have been badly damaged by years of neglect, harsh weather, and vandalism. The next step in preserving the monastery is to repair the icons, paintings, and mosaics to their original state.
|The decorated, damaged walls|
|Even with damages, the |
frescoes are beautiful.
|The vandalism is equal-opportunity: there are Turkish |
names and Greek initials scratched into this fresco. I
don't know who you people are, but I hope your
mother smacked you for this!