“The photos published on a Turkish website cause feelings of frustration, sadness and indignation not only to Orthodox Christians, but also to every civilized person due to the extensive vandalism of historical hagiographies at Sumela Monastery in Trabzon. If the information is true, it is an unacceptable disrespect to a centuries-old place of worship, a vandalism, in fact, that took place during the five-year closure of the monastery for restoration work.”
Those were the words of the head of the Greek delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy (IAO) and New Democracy MP, Maximos Charakopoulos, on the occasion of the news of extensive vandalism of murals at the historic Sumela Monastery.
The MP from Asia Minor emphasizes that “unfortunately, in all the churches in Asia Minor, which our grandparents were forced to leave after the uprooting – from those in Cappadocia praised by the Nobel Prize-winning poet G. Seferis to Pontus –the Saints in the fine murals are impotent! The barbarity of uneducated or fanatical Turks did not spare these works of art, who often proudly leave the evidence of the crime, engraving their names in the hagiographies.
Civilized humanity must stop disregard such behaviors, which, unfortunately, are no exception in today’s Turkey. On the contrary, as shown by the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, they express a specific mentality, which permeates Turkish society.
It is, therefore, imperative that there be immediate coordinated action by international institutions and the scientific community, including Turkish Byzantine scholars, so that an international team of renowned experts conducts an inspection of Sumela Monastery with the aim of providing an objective report and repairing the damage caused by vandalism. Thanks to their knowledge and experience, Greek hagiographers-conservators can also contribute decisively to this group. Unfortunately, as has been the case in 2010, during the first service in Sumela Monastery after the Asia Minor catastrophe, the alleged restoration of hagiographies, such as that of the Pantocrator, brutally offends the monument. It is obvious to the most ignorant that whoever carried out the “restoration” works had nothing to do with the Byzantine art of hagiography!
For the Sumela Monastery, which is currently included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Greek State and Pontian organizations should take initiatives to raise international awareness and exert pressure so that the symbol of Pontian Hellenism can obtain the status of full protection.”