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Trabzon Tours Travel Guide Turkey

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TRABZON

   The flourishing Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon has a long and interesting history. As it is today, the city was important as a trading center in the days of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Here we will touch upon the major historical sights in Trabzon and deal in more detail with an especially intriguing attraction, the Sumela Monastery, which is found between Trabzon and Erzurum.

HISTORY OF TRABZON

The ciLy was founded in the 7th century B.C. by colonists from neighboring Sinop, During antiquity it was known as Trapezus. Trabzon became a Greek colony of some note during the 6th century B.C. It had turned back many invading armies through the years, except for the Goths, who captured and burned the city in the 3rd century A.D. Trabzon remained independent and free during the incursion into Anatolia of the Seljuks in the 11th century. The two sons of the Byzantine Emperor Adronicus escaped from the Conquering Crusaders in 1204, when they took Constantinople. The two princes fled to Trabzon. The city was ruled by the Byzantine Alexis Commenus until 1461, when Mehmet the Conqueror took it over. Trabzon bad lasted almost a decade after the Ottomans had established Anatolia as their own private preserve.

The Genoese held the city during the 13th century, and they were followed by the Venetians in the next century. Trabzon was very attractive to these early trading powers because of its impor­tance as a major Black Sea port. When Mehmet the Conqueror finally look the city, lie is said to have offered up prayers in the Church of Saint Eugenics. This was on a Friday, and the church became known as the New Friday Mosque or, in Turkish, the Yeni Cuma Cami.

Among the historical monuments of interest in Trabzon and in the vicinity are: the citadel, the Central Castle Mosque, the New Friday Mosque, the Church of Saint Sophia, the Ayvasil Church, the Giilbahar Hatun Mosque, the Atatiirk Villa, and the remarkable Sumela Monastery of the Holy Virgin.

CITADEL OF TRABZON

Tiie citadel was built by I lie Byzantines and consists of three sections: the lower, central and inner castles. On the rocky hills of the lower castle stands a fortress of a more recent period named «the Beautiful Palace.» The third part of the castle was constructed by the Ottomans under Mnhmet the Conqueror. The altar and the pulpit of the Middle Fortress Mosque, which was originally the Panaghia Chrysocephalos Church and which was transformed later in 1161 into a mosque by Fatih Mehmet, is worth seeing. The old Saint Eugenins Church, which is a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture, has now also been transformed into a mosque with the name «The New Friday Mosque».

The Church of Saint Sophia : Another of the beautiful ancient structures that adorn the city is the old Saint Sophia, which is now a museum. The walls of the church are covered with frescoes. The western gate of the building, which was renovated by the Seljuks, is as a whole, a Seljuk work; the pointed arches ornamented with stalactites are very interesting.

Kiiçiik Ayvazil Church : The Küçük Ayvazil Church was the principal holy place of the Christians in Trabzon. This church, which was constructed by the Creeks during the 7th century, has now been transformed into a mosque as well. The wall-paintings and reliefs have been preserved and are in an excellent stale.

The Mosques of Trabzon: One of the most beautiful of the Ottoman works of the city is the Gülbahar Hatun Mosque. This was erected during the reign of Sultan Selim the Criın in honor of his mother, Gülbahar Matım. Her lomb is nearby. The Ilatip Mosque was built during the 16th century, and the Pazar kapı Mosque, which is in the baroque style with one minaret, are among some of the other Ottoman relics. Other points of interest in the city include the Taş Han, dating from the lfith century, in the area of the Market Mosque, the bath of Tophane Hamamı and the Eight- Pillar Bath.

The Sumela Monastery: The Sumela Monastery of the Holy Virgin is a most interesting complex. J t was built on the face of a steep and rocky cliff, 54 kilometers from Trabzon. The Convent was constructed by the Byzantines in 172 A.D. The structure is very interesting both for its architecture and its frescoes, especially those of the Virgin Mary. It is the most important building remaining in the area from the Byzantine period. Where the original wall paintings exist, traces of these layers of frescoes can be seen. The small cells for the monks are now completely ruined. Some of the ornaments dating from the 19th century were decorated by craftsmen from Istanbul. 

According to traditions, the monastery was founded during the time of Justinian in the 6th century A.D. It was dedicated to the Holy Virgin. The complex is reached hv one set of stairs leading up to the entrance, some 3,900 feet in altitude. It was built on the side of a valley going down a thousand feet to the bottom, Most of the buildings at the site were built when the Byzantine Comneni princes were ruling Trabzon. After passing into the monastery, go down the steps that lead into the main courtyard. To the right is a building that was erected in 1860 as a guest lodge, also here are several other buildings including a church in a grotto and a chapel. The grotto is enclosed with a heavily frescoed wall. The paintings of the church date from the time of Alexis III in the 14th century. The paintings in the small chapel are from about the mid-18th century. At the bottom of the cliff is a modern monastery.