Rock hewn Byzantine Monastery in need of restoration
The Solomon Monastery, which was carved out of the rocks in the eastern Turkish province of Erzurum nearly 1,000 years ago, is in need of restoration to attract more tourists according officials.
The monastery features Jesus Christ in the arms of the Virgin Mary, as well as a cross carved on rocks and various figures.
The monastery receives between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors a year during certain seasons, but it can only be reached after a difficult journey.
The monastery is currently a protected site as designated by the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board, said Senkaya District Gov. Ahmet Ozkan said.
Information about the Solomon Monastery’s establishment is not certain, but it is believed to date back 1,000 years ago, Ozkan said.
“Because it is a sensitive structure, the restoration process is progressing very slowly. A plan should be prepared and its originality should be kept. It is a historic place and there are worries about harming it. Sometime soon, an arrangement will be made,” the district governor said.
“Georgians lived here for a long time. This place was constructed on steep rocks. Water was brought to the monastery by carving the rocks. Icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ are in the monastery. There are rooms and various sections. Unfortunately, it was plundered and damaged in recent years by treasure hunters,” Gulle said.
Gulle said he delivered photos of the monastery to the board and demanded the structure be taken under better protection.
Gulle said the monastery was believed to have served as a seminary for nuns.
“We have learned from Georgian tourists that this was a seminary. Sisters used to be trained here. One of the most important reasons why it was constructed on steep rocks was to train sisters and security. It dates back to the Byzantine era and it took the name Solomon after it was taken over by the Georgians,” Gulle said.
Gulle said the monastery had rooms, rock tombs and some sections as well as a pulpit for the priest.
“This place is nearly 700 meters above sea level and 300 meters above the neighborhood. It is very hard to reach here. This is why the construction of stairs and a road here will make travel easier for tourists,” he said.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News [September 07, 2016]