Built on a steep rock in Trabzon's Maçka District, Sumela Monastery is known as the "Virgin Mary Monastery" among the people. The monastery, which is about 300 meters above the valley, was established by following the tradition of establishing monasteries outside the city, in forests and caves. The name "Sumela" is derived from the word "molasses" meaning "black". Although this name is thought to come from the dark-colored Karadağ Plateau, where the monastery was established, the word Sumela can be attributed to the black color of the depiction of Mary here.
According to the legend, it was founded by two priests named Barnabas and Sophranios who came from Athens during the time of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I (375-395). It was repaired by one of the emperor's generals Belisarios after Emperor Justinianus asked the monastery to be repaired and expanded in the 6th century.
The Sumela Monastery has preserved its current form since the 13th century. During the time of Alexios III of the Trabzon Komnenos Principality, which was founded in 1204, the importance of the monastery increased, and a regular income was provided. Sumela was enriched with new decrees during the reign of Manuel III, the son of Alexios III and the following princes.
After the Eastern Black Sea coasts came under Turkish rule, the Ottoman Sultans protected the rights of Sumela, as in many monasteries, and gave some privileges. Many parts of the Sumela Monastery were renovated in the 18th century, and some walls were decorated with frescoes. With the addition of large buildings in the 19th century, the monastery gained a magnificent appearance and lived its richest and brightest period. The monastery, which took its final shape during this period, became a place visited by many foreign travelers and subject to their writings. During the Russian occupation of Trabzon between 1916-1918, the monastery was seized and completely evacuated after 1923.
The main rock church, several chapels, kitchens, student rooms, guesthouse, library, and holy spring are the main parts of Sumela Monastery. The inner and outer walls of the rock church that constitutes the main unit of the monastery and the chapel adjacent to it are decorated with frescoes. On the wall facing the courtyard inside the rock church, frescoes belonging to the reign of Alexios III were identified. The frescoes in the chapel, on the other hand, are dated to the beginning of the 18th century, and there are three layers made in three different periods.
The frescoes in the Sumela Monastery contain scenes from the Bible and depictions of the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.