Trabzon’s vandalized Vazelon Monastery to be restored after years of neglect

A restoration project for the Vazelon Monastery, located in the Maçka district of the Black Sea province of Trabzon, is underway after the ancient site fell into ruins due to neglect, vandalism and treasure hunters’ raids.

The exact foundation date of the monastery in uncertain, though some researchers think the foundation of the monastery could be between A.D. 270-317. The monastery was restored by Emperor Justinianus in 565 and has undergone numerous repairs and restoration processes prior to the present day.

In recent years, the urgency of the extensive restoration project has become clear after the monastery’s roof fell in after a landslide. Additionally, regular attacks from treasure hunters, and tourists carving their names or declarations of loves, have left the monastery in a poor state, prompting authorities to take action.

“The Tourism Ministry lodged a tender for the restoration project last year. European Union funds have gone towards this project. The works are still ongoing. This is a process that will take a long time. The restoration will start in 2020,” Maçka Mayor Koray Koçhan has said.

Koçhan noted that the restoration of the ancient site should start “as soon as possible” and the monastery “should be opened to tourism.”

“Vazelon Monastery is unfortunately unprotected. The conservation board has declared the region a protected area. The ownership of the structure, which has been registered as a cultural asset, belongs to the Tourism Ministry. Its surroundings belong to the Forestry Ministry… The monastery has been exposed to the ravages of treasure hunters and other such people, but now when we look at it, treasure hunter diggings have decreased,” Koçhan said.

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri Bartholomew had visited the monastery in August of 2011. Bartholomew and the clergymen accompanying him had analyzed the ancient site, lit a candle there and conducted prayers.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News