August 14, 2023

Two Little Known Miracles of Panagia Soumela

In 1911, Prussian Generalleutnant Eduard von Hoffmeister (1852-1920) published a book titled Durch Armenien und der Zug Xeniphons in Leipzig. Hoffmeister traveled through Pontus to Armenia in 1909 to follow Xenophon’s paths. He spent several months around and gives exact information for the contemporary populations and roads. He had visited several monasteries of Pontus, including Soumela. While at Soumela, he either read or was told interesting stories about the miraculous icon of the Panagia Soumela and wrote about it in his book. On the basis of what he wrote, Polychronis Enepekides (1917-2014), a Pontian by birth and the head of the Institute of Byzantine Studies in Vienna from 1974 until his retirement in 1992, published this in the periodical Pontiaki Estia. Enepekides is regarded as one of the first scholars to bring to light - through his research of the Austro-Hungarian archives - the persecution of Ottoman Greeks and in particular Pontic Greeks.

Hoffmeister, though he approaches these stories as a skeptic, writes the following about Soumela Monastery and its miraculous icon, describing how they are both spoken of as if defending each other:

A photo of Soumela Monastery from a first edition of the book.

"Monastery and miraculous icon have always known how they shield and protect each other. When in the twelfth century savage Turkoman hordes swept across Armenia, they also came to the Meriamane Valley, found the monastery, stormed it despite its strong position and wanted to burn it. But they couldn't manage that; the fire did not catch because the monastery could not allow the icon it guarded to become homeless. Then they tore it from the wall, chopped it up, and threw it, half in pieces, into the Meriamane. However, the torrent did not carry it away, but held it and healed it together, after which the pious fathers pulled it out and put it in its old place. Through these experiences its miraculous power was still increased.

Eduard von Hoffmeister

Towards the middle of the seventeenth century the mighty Sultan Murad IV set out from Trebizond to conquer Baghdad. When he climbed up through the Meriamane Valley with his bodyguard, the army followed the main road - he saw the monastery from the other side of the gorge, had it summoned to surrender and, when this was refused, shot at it from the slope on the other side. Then the icon became active on behalf of the monastery. The bullets did not reach the walls, but instead, exhausted by the holy mist, fell into the gorge - a completely natural process, if there really is any truth to the legend, since the distance was much too great for the bullet to take effect at that time. Nevertheless, things did not seem to be going well for the sultan; he bowed before the miracle and not only refrained from the destruction, but even vowed to give the monastery rich silver vessels after returning victorious. Later he also donated vessels, but not of silver, as he had promised, but only of copper, to the pain of the monks and to the astonishment of the icon. In any case, the monastery has remained under the special protection of the Ottoman rulers and in possession of its goods and rights, even if nothing more was said about greater miracles due to overwhelming disbelief."

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