Monday, September 10, 2012

Vatopaidi Monastery

The Vatopaidi Monastery is one of twenty monasteries on the Mount Athos peninsula and is located on the north-eastern side of the peninsula. It operates as a coenobitic monastery (a communal monastic community). It is inhabited by more than 100 monks and is second in hierarchical rank among the monasteries of the mountain.

Some sources associate the name of "Vatopaidi" with the flora of the surrounding countryside.

Scholars regard the Holy and glorious Great Monastery of Vatopaidi as one of the finest masterpieces of Byzantium in the world, in terms of its magnificent architecture. 

The monastery was founded in 972 AD by three monks, Athanasius, Nikolaos and Antonios, who were students of St. Athanasius of Lavra. The major parts of the monastery were constructed either during the Byzantine period or later, during the 18th and 19th centuries, when building reached its peak. The monastery is monumental in size,with a tall wall just like a castle, in which the buildings are placed in triangular form, creating thus a perfect defence system against any foreign invasion, which during the medieval era meant mainly pirates. 

In addition to many relics, the monastery possesses a library of over 10.000 printed books and about 1.700 manuscripts. One of the most significant treasures include the Belt of the Virgin Mary, which she gave to Thomas the Apostle during her transition to heaven. 

In addition, there are seven icons of the Mother of God in the monastery which are miracle working; these are:  Elaiovrytissa, Ktetorissa, Esphagmeni, Pantanassa, Pyrovolitheisa, Antiphonitria and Paramythia. Whilst visiting the monastery a couple of years ago, we were told by one monk that the Virgin Mary visits the other monasteries on Mount Athos; however she lives in the Vatopaidi Monastery. 

Despite the fact that the Vatopaidi Monastery and the Athonite Community, in general, went through a troubling time in regards to the various (questionable) dealings they had with the Greek state, it retains its unique features. The visitor and the believer enters a different world, where the daily routine follows the Byzantine time and where a glimpse of a heavenly community is evident here on earth. 

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