Greece decries Turkey for allowing DJ performance at sacred Sumela monastery

Hundreds attend the annual Virgin Mary service at the Sumela Monastery looking over the Black Sea
Hundreds attend the annual Virgin Mary service at the Sumela Monastery looking over the Black Sea Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Shannon McDonagh with Reuters
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Turkish authorities are said to have allowed a DJ to play electronic music in the tourist attraction, believed to be over 1600 years old, for a promotional advertisement.


Greece's foreign ministry have rebuked images of a DJ playing electronic music at the former Orthodox Christian Sumela monastery in Turkey as "a desecration" of the monument.

Footage released on social media showed a DJ performing in the courtyard of the cliffside ruins.

The makers of the video clip defended their decision, saying the video was shot in order to promote Sumela as a tourist attraction and that permission had been granted by Turkish authorities.

Greek officials say the scenes at the 4th century complex dedicated to the Virgin Mary were "offensive".

The ministry say the called on Turkish authorities "to do their utmost to prevent such acts from being repeated" and to respect the site, a candidate for UNESCO's list of world heritage sites.

"The recent images that were displayed on social media, in which a foreign band seems to be dancing disco in the area of ​​the Historical Monastery of Panagia Soumela, are a desecration of this Monument," it said.

Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.

Why is Sumela a sacred space for Greek Orthodox Christians?

The 1600-year-old ancient Orthodox sacred space is now used as a museumReuters

Sumela is a monastic complex built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest in eastern Turkey.

Known to Orthodox Greeks as Panagia Soumela, it was long ago stripped of its official religious status and operates as a museum administered by the Culture Ministry in Turkey.

Thousands of tourists and Orthodox Christian worshippers journey to the monastery annually.

"It is surprising that the permit was given to the band, as the Monastery of Panagia Soumela opens only for pilgrims," the Greek foreign ministry said. "These images are offensive and add to a series of actions by the Turkish authorities against World Heritage Sites," its statement said, without elaborating.

In 2010, Turkish authorities allowed the first Orthodox liturgy since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923 as part of a population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

In 2015, the Sumela monastery was shut for restoration and reopened to tourists in 2019.

A liturgy to mark the Feast Day of the Virgin Mary was allowed in 2020 and 2021.

Greece and Turkey disagree on a range of issues from airspace to maritime zones in the eastern Mediterranean and ethnically split Cyprus.

The two countries have in the past crossed swords over the conversion of the nearly 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. In July 2020 Islamic prayers were held at the ancient site for the first time in nine decades.

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