Ayvalik, a small town on the Aegean coast of Turkey, has a rich history and many remains and reminders of that. Several churches in various states of structural integrity, many old houses, windmills, an orphanage, and a surprising number of monasteries are peppered in and around the town. The pleasant atmosphere and the historical remains attracted the attention of the wealthy in recent years. Based on what I have heard and seen, I understand Rahmi Koç restored an old windmill and the CEO of Coca Cola Muhtar Kent donated a library collection. The Komili family restored an old monastery to a large residence which is not too far from the Boyner residence. Guler Sabanci bought land on an island, if not the entire island, and built a compound near the remains of a smaller monastery. And more recently, Suzan Sabancı Dinçer and Haluk Dinçer bought the Moonlight Monastery and restored it to what they call a “museum-house”.
Agios Dimitrios ta Salina (Monastery of Moonlight) is on the shore of the Pateriça peninsula on the northern side of Cunda Island. Seventeenth-century monks erected the monastery with the permission of the Ottoman sultan and it has lived a colorful history under Ottoman, Greek, and Turkish rule. Until very recently it was in practical ruins and after the purchase of the monastery and its appurtenant land and structure, it was restored in two short years. There is no land access to the building anymore since it is the property of the Dinçer family and only the invited guests at its opening had the pleasure of seeing it from inside.
While I was in Ayvalik in May 2012, one of the destinations Ergun had arranged was to the Moonlight Monastery, but by the sea. He chartered a boat to take us to see the building at least from outside. The journey and the destination were both quite interesting. I got a chance to see Ayvalik and its surrounds from a vantage point I had not seen before. The discussion of the closed nature of the monastery, the museum-house will likely continue for a while in Ayvalik, and perhaps in Turkey. There are those who advocate that these structures should be open to the public or, as others argue that it is better they are repaired in private hands instead of falling into ruins. The answer probably lies in a solution that does not consider these seemingly opposing views joined with an “or” but other alternatives that join the two sides with an “and”. However, there is no doubt that Ayvalik has become the “in place” in Turkey and its future is being written even as I write this short post. In years to come, Ayvalik will change in very significant and possibly profound ways. My hope is that in the end, it becomes a vibrant community that fosters the art, history, and tradition that time has gifted the town instead of becoming a resort town for the wealthy.
While getting ready to write this post I did a little research to find out what the monastery looked like before the restoration and discovered photographs taken by photographers I do not know. I will show a few of their photographs, which depict the old state of the monastery, hoping that they will not mind. I contacted one photographer, Hasan Akay for his permission but I have not been able to find any way to contact the other photographer, who coincidentally shares my last name, Ugur Ekin. I hope he stumbles upon this post and gives me his explicit approval to use his photographs.
Here are Hasan Akay’s photographs of the Moonlight Monastery
These photographs are by Ugur Ekin, Moonlight Monastery
The following gallery is from our trip to the Moonlight Monastery