According to the planning the next leg of our pilgrimage would bring us from Megistis Lavra to Nea Skiti.
Directly from Lavra starts a monopati. Soon the monopati transfers to an open road made of concrete plates. But luckily after 800 meters the old monopati works its way up in almost a straight line, from nearly sea-level up to 500 meters. The hike is very enclosed due to dense vegetation. There is hardly a view on the surroundings. Just before the big wooden cross on the southern ridge, a panoramic view opens. *
Here we see Skiti Prodromou from that high perspective, in the morning light. The vast skete looks almost a symmetrical from this perspective. We see two monks standing in the gate. We see some workers near the trucks. The cypresses give a beautiful dark contrast. The sun glitters in the sea. I have written before about this point of view, when we travelled the other way, from Kafsokalivia to Prodromou, in 2013.From the same perspective you can also see the very end of the peninsula, an area called: Akrathos. There we see an enormous Greek flag and the Byzantine flag (the yellow one with the two-headed eagle). It is the kellion where the monk Iosef lives who likes to wave the Greek flag to greet pilots in fighter jets who pass close by. He has even been given a pilots suit. (Watch the You Tube film with Iosef waving the flag to Phantom jets. Adjust the volume. The music is very loud.) Father Iosef lives on the edge of the holy world, about 200 meters above the sea.
Just below, in the abyss, laya the famous cage of Athanasiou, the founder of the monastic life on Athos.
On this Russian fresco we find Athanasiou and John the Forrunner (Prodromou) together.A large field of solar panels is installed not very far from Prodromou. Some windmills can be seen as well. So good to see how much effort is put into sustainable energy on the Holy Mountain. So the monks will always have all the electrical energy they need to for fill their tasks now and in the far future.
The point of view where these photo’s were taken is called Tavrokalyvo. The distance from this point to Podromou in a straight line is 1200 meters. The path from Lavra is clearly coming from the north and makes a turn to the right at the red star in the direction of Kavsolalivia and Sk . Anna. The zig zag path downhill to Prodromou is also visible.
The easter procession with the icon of the Panagia Portaitissa in 1917 with on the left, a part of the aqueduct of Iviron. The monks are about to pass the large arche of the structure. Notice also the scaffolding, to keep the aqueduct in its place?
I visited Iviron several times but never noticed the aqueduct. But with the increasing quality of Google maps I believe I found the right location.The aqueduct starts at the red arrow and I think the photographer of the black and white image stood on the red star when shooting his picture. On the left, the building close to the waterway and in the back the long building also to be seen on the photograph. The wooden building in front on the photograph did not survive time.
Here you can scan the detailed surface of Mount Athos with a new version of Google Maps.
This is the entrance 0f Koutloumousiou seen from the courtyard. On the right side of the porch a pre christian, so called, Grave Stele is part of the wall.
A stele is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected in the ancient world as a monument. Grave steles were often used for funerary or commemorative purposes (wikipedia). This Grave Stele is made in the mid-4th century Before Christ. The two figures are unmistakably women. The seated figure is the deceased. The standing woman, probably a servant, is holding a box and offering something to the deceased. This could be an piece of jewelry as it is in the beautiful Grave Stele of Hegeso, dated from ca. 410 – ca. 400 BCE.
The Grave Stele of Hegeso in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The jewelry, originally in the hand of the deceased, was painted but has now disappeared.
Part of an article in a German magazine called Antike Welt by Ulrich Hübner about the Pre Christian object in Koutloumousiou. The writer is stating among other things that the Stele is probably placed in the wall a little before the 17th century. Originally the object is coming from Metochia (land elsewhere, owned by the monastery) outside Athos or from the eastern part of Greece.
The passage through the kitchen. The cobbled stones look like they are polished by centuries of footsteps. A strong sense of beauty made me shiver here.This picture is taken from the cells at the inside of the eastern wall. An overview with four cupolas; one pink, one orange and two red ones. The red ones form the top of the catholicon. The pink one is the top of the chapel Nicolaos. The orange one, made of bricks, belongs to the chapel Panaghia Kukuselissa.The chapel Panaghia, located between the northern wall and the trapeza, with an icon behind a red curtain. The same image 100 years ago. The pillars with the lions are worth noticing. Herman dedicated a special post about this chapel, with the same picture, from Charles Martel, the French photographer.The red cupola of the catholicon with the led cupola of the phiale in front of it. The 1000 years old cypress, named after the founder of Megistis Lavra, Athanasios, overshadows the cupolas.An overview of the catholicon from the rear, just after the sun disappeared behind the holy cypress.And the same picture, taken about 100 years ago, by the French Photographer Roger Le Baron.As a pilgrim you sleep in one big room on the first floor. Many short legged beds in one room. Plastic slippers are offered, as usual. Big old beams carry the ceiling, which is quite low. Men preparing for the night, like men do. Collecting necessities, reading a bit, chatting, checking smart phones, staring, laying down, staring at the ceiling and snoring. Someone, closest to the switch, was so kind to turn off the light for the night. The concerto for 24 vibrating uvulas was on the air.Early next morning before leaving Lavra. The chapel Panaghia, the tower of Tsimisès/ Tsimiskis and mountain in the morning light.Again the chapel Panaghia in the morning light. The wall of the trapeza catches the first sunlight of the day.The picture Le Baron made from the southwest edge with the tower Tsimiskis/Tsimisès, shows Megistis Lavra in its mediaeval splendour. We had to move on. To Nea Skiti. So we had a long day ahead of us. I wondered if we would find it in a different condition then on those very cold first days of 2015. I shivered again.
Time to take a close-up look at Lavra, to watch some details. The fountain in front of the catholicon was not working. The eagle spreads its wings. It doesn’t have two heads as might be expected. Below it we see right a griffin (head and wings of an eagle and body of a lion) and rams with impressive horns at the bottom. The erosion comes in bright colours. The shadow of the eagle took a rest in the big bowl.In the southern monastery wall, where the cells of the monks are, some tiles can be seen. This one, with the three half-naked ladies and a child is, so I thought, quite special in a place where no living women are allowed. The ladies smile and look very happy, here on the southern wall. They do hold large bouquets. In the background we see traditional Greeks country houses and some cypresses.This tile, also in the southern wall, shows some more flowers laid out in seven vertical strings, A nice graphic image. The colours are still bright and fresh.
The ceiling of the cupola at the main entrance of the monastery shows the zodiac. We see Scales, and Scorpio in a beautiful blue starry sky. The eyed sun radiates its intense rays of heat.The bright coloured glasswork of the exonarthex of the catholicon. Outside a long bench. The colours are mostly blue, red and green. But the shapes do vary more.Other windows in the exonarthex show three shades of blue and ochre. Geometric round shapes filter the outside light on the transparent glass plates.A symmetrical window from the outside of the refectory could use some paint, one could argue. I probably like it more in a certain state of decay. When the sun, rain and time have left their marks. The many shades in the green marble are almost drowned in the restored and over-enthusiastic jointing. The stucco dominates the stones.A black cat watched the sunset from the kiosk. He was only shortly disturbed by my presence and turned his head slowly towards the pastels in the sky.