Greece is facing a great, unholy challenge at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Pontus. Unknown people caused huge damage to the famous and historical frescoes of the Monastery, during the time it was closed for repairs. In view of the Patriarchal Liturgy on August 15, the catastrophe will be known to the whole world. It is currently captured on the Turkish website Arkeofili with photographic material that generates anger and sadness.
According to the author of the article Erman Ertuğrul, names have been erased or written on all the faces of the murals, except those on the ceiling that the vandals could not reach. The damages were seen and captured by visitors from July 28 onwards, when the Monastery reopened as a museum (it was closed for five years for restorations and maintenance). In general, the hagiographies are not in the best condition, due to the fact that they are not properly maintained, but in this case it is obvious to the naked eye that there is extensive, brazen vandalism.
As liberal.gr reports, some say damages have happened before, but others say on social media that they have taken on this “sacred” task. As an autopsy in the remote area in which it is located is impossible, we will have to wait for the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew on August 15 to find out the truth and the extent of the damages. In any case, the fact is completely reprehensible and a challenge to Orthodoxy. Besides, on the comments of the article, Turkish citizens comment that in a serious state this should not happen, condemning these profane acts.
The Holy Monastery of Panagia Soumela has been included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Our country should ask for the restoration of the hagiographies, which have a great historical and artistic value. Greece could, in fact, offer to send Greek conservators, who have experience and respect for monuments.
The monasteries of Pontus have suffered from the barbaric and disrespectful behavior of the Neo-Turks and the Kemalists, who fanatized the savage and predatory Muslim groups. Many times they fell victim to robberies and damages. In 1922 the Turks caused destruction in the monastery. After first robbing all the valuables that were inside the monastery, then they set fire.
In June 2010, the Turkish state gave permission to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to hold a service in the historic monastery for the Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 15, 2010. The monks transported to Panagia Soumela in Vermio as many relics as they could save.
The Turkish side denies what the evidence shows. Yahya Coşkun, Deputy Director General for Cultural Heritage and Museums at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, told Anadolu Agency that there was no recent damage to the murals in the Monastery.