January 22, 2014

Historic Monastery in Asia Minor in Danger of Collapsing

For clarification, Kursunlu is the Turkish translation of the Greek Molivdoskepasto, which in English means "Lead-covered". Kursunlu Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called "Panagia Molivdoskepasti". Though the article below says it is an 11th century Monastery, there is evidence it may date to the late 9th century. The Monastery appears to be built as a place of refuge, possibly during Iconoclasm, as it is located in such a remote and high area (600m above sea level) and covered by trees. Some have also identified the Monastery with Megas Argos, which was founded by Theophanes the Confessor in the 780's, where he lived for over a quarter century until returning to Constantinople. He was said to have been buried here in 819. If this theory is correct, then this Monastery may contain the oldest example of cross-in-square church plans in existence.

December 16, 2013

The historic Kursunlu Monastery, in the Samson Mountains of the western province of Aydın, is in danger of collapsing. Growing trees are pressing against the top of the 11th century monastery, in the Kusadası district of Aydın, and damaging the building.

The monastery’s surroundings are not regularized, which is why the stone walls and the ceiling are now shattering, alarming associations that are seeking to protect historical structures in the area.

The monastery is perhaps the second most important ancient building in Aydın, after the Stylos (Arapavlusu) Monastery in the nearby Besparmak Mountains.

Condition of the monastery

The condition of the monastery is controlled by the Ecosystem Protection and Nature Lovers Association (EKODOSD), which provides information on the condition of the monastery every year.

EKODOSD President Bahattin Sürücü said the monastery desperately needed restoration and could collapse at any time. The trees surrounding it are the most critical problems facing the monastery, shattering some of its stones.

“The roots of the trees are damaging the walls and shattering the monastery’s stones. The monastery is situated at the top of the mountain, which is why it’s particularly vulnerable to nature,” Sürücü said, adding that strong winds and winter conditions were badly affecting the monastery.

With the wind, the trees pressing against the monastery’s domes are shaking and causing damage, he also said, adding that a significant part of the dome had already seen serious damage.

The monastery has stood since the 11th century, and was still used until 200 years ago. Tourists trekking and running in Aydın often visit the monastery during the summer. On the other hand, during winter, the monastery is visited by people collecting mushrooms in the region.

“With the current situation the monastery is a danger for everyone,” said Sürücü, warning that it may even collapse when people were inside visiting. In order to avoid this, officials should see to it that the monastery is restored as soon as possible, he added.

About the monastery

The Kursunlu Monastery is situated in an area that became an outstanding religious center for education in the aftermath of the immigrations of early Christian believers. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, the monastery has an excellent view of the coastal towns of Kusadası and Davutlar, and is hidden from view as it is located among thick trees and plants.

The monastery consists of a dining room, a cellar, a kitchen and bedrooms for monks, a small chapel and a necropolis. The ceiling of the across-planned chapel was ornamented with the geometrical decorated frescoes from the Iconoclastical period. The rest clearly represent religious events and personalities. Painted either on an overcoat or directly on the walls, the frescoes are based on the life of Jesus Christ and scenes from the Gospel.