Sumela Monastery Vandalized After Reopening

08/12/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Following the reopening of Trabzon’s Sumela Monastery the last week of July, visitors reported damage to the majority of the Christian frescoes within the structure. The monastery had been undergoing restoration for years to correct incidents of vandalism and fire, and now the building is once again in need of attention.

Greek and Turkish news sources report significant damage to the icons and murals, as many of the faces were destroyed and writing was scribbled across most images. Eyewitness accounts note that only the artwork on the ceiling remained unscathed. According to Turkish media outlet Arkeofili, one Twitter user claimed responsibility, saying, “I confess I have taken on this sacred duty.” There has been no official confirmation of any suspects and Turkey denies that vandalism has occurred.

The Sumela Monastery stands as an important pilgrimage for Greek Christians, and it has thousands of visitors there each year. The news of Turkey’s restoration and reopening of the monastery, followed by the obvious vandalism left unfixed, saddens many within the Christian community. The history of Sumela Monastery also shows how Turkey values religious tourism, but does not value religious freedom.

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