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Reclaiming the Abandoned places of Empire

26 August 2010

Though full of errors, the following report of the Divine Liturgy (wrongly called “mass” in the article) at the site of a former monastery in Turkey is nevertheless interesting.

Unorthodox wordings, to say the least | GetReligion:

Five hundred Greek orthodox Christians have celebrated mass in the beautiful 1,600-year-old Sumela monastery in north-eastern Turkey, ending an 88-year ban on religious services at the site.

Conducted by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri Bartholomew I, the mass attracted orthodox Christians from Greece, Russia, Georgia, the US and Turkey to the monastery that sits on a ledge high in a cliff inland from the Turkish Black Sea port of Trabzon

The mass was conducted with the blessing of Turkey’s ministry of culture, which has funded an extensive restoration of the monastery that until a decade ago was in an advanced state of dereliction. The event, which was televised live around the world, occurred in contrast to attempts made last year to hold an orthodox mass at the site that were halted by ministry officials intent on upholding a ban on religious services at the monastery.

Sumela Monastery in Turkey

Trebizond, or Trabzon as it is now called, was the last Roman empire, or the last part of the Roman Empire to be conquered by the Turks. So this fits in nicely with the first of the “12 marks of the New Monasticism“, which is “Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.”

It’s interesting that the Turkish Government is being slightly more lenient about this than the Port Authority of New York, which is refusing to allow the rebuilding of St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Manhattan, which was destroyed when one of the towers of the World Trade Centre fell on it 9 years ago. But whether the Turkish Government will allow monks to relocate to Sumela Monastery remains to be seen.

The first I ever heard of Trebizond was when an Anglican monk, Brother Roger of the Community of the Ressurection in Johannesburg, who guided much of my reading in my late teens, lent me Rose Macaulay’s novel The towers of Trebizond.

The towers of TrebizondThe towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful novel about a High Anglican attempt to reclaim “the abandoned places of empire”. The narrator Laurie and her (her sex is unclear until near the end of the story) aunt Dot, together with her aunt’s Anglo-Catholic chaplain set out for Trebizond, the site of the last Roman empire, with a camel. They are joined by a Turkish feminist whom they hope to convert to Anglicanism.

View all my reviews

And for the rest of what’s wrong with the original article, see Unorthodox wordings, to say the least | GetReligion

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Isaiah permalink
    26 August 2010 3:57 pm

    I am not sure if that’s what they mean by ‘abandoned places of empire’, I think that it short-hand for going into neighbourhoods that have been seriouesly damaged by the economic, political, social and military actions by contemporary states.

  2. Carl permalink
    30 August 2010 10:50 am

    As I commented then, only when we’ve identified ‘Empire’ can we discern its places.

    The locus of power is one of the big differences between European and North American new monasticism.

    In the latter, expressed in the 12 Marks, the word “abandoned” carries political weight. NM in Europe appears to be more faithful to classical monasticism.

    Cf. vs

    • 30 August 2010 11:47 am


      I’ve visited those sites, and neither of them explain what they mean by “abandoned places of Empire”. I’ve also tried Google searches, and have found nothing more enlightening.

      So whatever else may be “abandoned places of Empire”, as far as I can see Sumela is one of them, and it is my hope and prayer that some monastic community, old or new, may relocate there.

  3. Carl permalink
    30 August 2010 12:11 pm

    Have you read ‘the Twelve Marks’? The first chapter is by Sr Margaret McKenna – she deals with the subject from a personal, ‘spiritual journey’ perspective.

    Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s father-in-law has some interesting thoughts on it in his intro.

    Alasdair McIntyre’s conclusion to his treatise ‘After Virtue’ is insightful and, possibly, the most helpful treatment of “Empire” – though I’m not sure American NM has interpreted him aright.

    • 1 September 2010 1:50 pm

      I’ve only read it on the web site – never seen the book.

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