The famous pilgrimage of Panagia Soumela is found in the village of Kastania which is on Vermio mountain (in Veria, Macedonia). It was founded in 1951 as a continuation of the abbey that had the same name and for 16 centuries it was the symbol and the spiritual center of Pontiac Hellenism.
The Monastery, which was meant to be a spiritual center for the Pontic Greeks, was founded in 386 AD by two monks, after the revelation of Virgin Mary, in a cave of the steep mountain Mela of Trapezounta, at an altitude of 1063m. We will climb “sou Mela your Panaian”, said the Pontiacs and that is why this name of Virgin Mary prevailed. Her miraculous icon, which was drawn on wood by Luke the Evangelist, the water with healing properties from which the Monastery irrigated and the gushes through a granite rock were sign marks for the Monastery.
The help which the Emperors of Byzantium offered to the Monastery was great. At the same time, during the Turkish occupation, the Sultans respected it and helped it. The barbaric and disrespectful behavior of the young Turks and Kemalists to the Monasteries of the Pontiacs resulted in the complete destruction of the Monastery in 1922, while the Monks fled away.
Before the uprooting and forced Exodus (sortie) of 1923, they hid the icon along with the priceless holy wood cross of Manuel Komninos III and a hand-written Gospel of Saint Christoforos in the chapel of Saint Varvara. In 1931, after the intervention of Eleftherios Venizelos, the two remaining living monks of the historical Monastery left from Thessaloniki and went to Pontus, exhumed the relics and brought them to Greece.
In 1951, the construction of the new Panagia Soumela monastery at Vermio started. This Monastery is the symbol and the lighthouse of the Pontiacs in Greece. In this, there is also the icon along with other relics. In the Monastery, there are ten guestrooms, a restaurant, a square, a parking lot, tourist kiosks etc.
Every year, on August 15th, on the day of the Dormition of Virgin Mary, thousands of visitors (Pontiacs or not) from all over Greece, flock at Panagia Soumela in order to worship and attend events held in the area.