1856 – The visit of Simonos Petras (fourth day, fourth leg)

To continue the travel- and photoblog from our September 2015 pilgrimage we took the early morning bus from Iviron to Karyes and then later another bus to the harbour in Dafni, where we wanted to sail to Simonos Petras. I had been there in the winter of 2014/2015 with my sons for a quick visit, because of the extreme weather conditions. And we had to hurry to be sure we were on time in Grigouriou before the gate would close at sunset. Now we were back in very different weather and time conditions. And we planned to have more time to wonder around.4594-simonaspetras-arsanasThe arrival at the arsanas of Simonos Petras with the Agia Anna. The rock of Peter above. The monastery towers over the harbour building. The monastery itself is compared with the Potala in Lhasa by Robert Byron (not the Lord). A striking similarity.
A steep but stable path, designed like stairs, leads to the monastery 330 meters uphill. No road from the arsanas, only a path. There is some shade along the way. Half way there is a small chapel and a place to rest and drink some water. Here is the crossing to Grigouriou. The place where we left our backpacks in good confidence.4617-simonaspetrasAfter the long climb, sometime with hairpins, the complex finally appears in its full glory. The low perspective makes it even more imposing. In the front we find the neat and well-kept vegetable gardens. There is a lot of repair work on the left hand site of the building. Even Peters rock is completely covered in very high scaffolds. As if even the rock on which the monastery is build needs to be strengthened.4625-cross-simonaspetras
A closer look at the peculiar iron crosses on the wooden entrance gate of the kitchen garden. Walking further up on the right hand side there is a beautiful long pergola with ripe grapes and kiwis that leads to the guesthouse. We first had some water and a coffee there before we explored the complex.4643-simonaspetras
Byrons simonos petras.pngWe wanted to go to the kiosk for the view of the monastery with the sea as the backdrop. This is a view from the hill side looking down to the complex. The impressive triple aqueduct can be seen clearly also on this photo by Robert Byron made in 1926.4653-simonas-petras
Zooming in on the well-restored aqueduct that brought in fresh water for ages. It was once a Bulgarian monastery, then later the monks came from Ionia, but recently the monks left Meteora in Greece, to repopulate it after the complex was almost uninhabited in the seventies of last century.simonospetras-sea
The superimposed building on the rock. Along the building is a wooden corridor. The monastery suffered in its history at least three great fires, in 1581, in 1626 and in 1891. After the last fire it was rebuild to the way we perceive it now. In 1990 a fire was stopped in time.4670-bell-simonas-petrasThe narrow outside corridor can be walked but it asks for trust in the construction and trust in the Maker and an absolute absence of fear of heights. It gives access to the katholikon and the refectory. This is the first of the two copper bells.4677-bell-simonaspetrasThe second copper bell on the other site of the balcony. It has an stunning view of the sea, deep down. It is too far down to hear the waves. You’re as close to heaven as you can get here.

The small and intimate refectory. We tried to get a place to sleep here both in winter and during this trip. But due to renovations and restrictions we couldn’t stay. You need good relations to stay there for the night; others succeeded where we failed. So we had to go all the way down again to Grigouriou, which is on sea-level.
Bas Kamps
October 2016

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1855 – Dutch monks on Athos

Sofar we discovered three Dutch monks who lived on the Holy Mountain. All three in Karakalou: Pachomios, K.  and someone unknown.
This is the story of fourth Dutchman on Athos, Hilarion of Xeropotamou.

Guestmonk Pachomios here in the garden of Karakalou with my brother Wim. Originaly he came from the former Dutch colony Surinam but grew up in The Hague, The Netherlands.
andreas-quintenYoung Dutchman K.  stayed several years in the monastery of Karakalou. His story can be read in post 1847. (picture by Micha Geldermans). K.  went to Karakalou in 1994 because  a Dutch monk already lived there. Unfortunately this Dutchman fell from a balcony two days after K.  arrived at the monastery and died! (this story in Koert Ter Veens book Athos Monnikeneiland blz. 281 2001)

.epenhuysen epenhuysen-conducting
Dutch musician and conducter  Jan van Epenhuysen (1906 -2000) of an orchestra (nowadays called Noord Nederlands Orkest ) in the north of the Netherlands retired in 1961 and went to a Orthodox community near Paris and in the late nineteen 60ties to Mount Athos. He was married and had three daughters.hilarionepenhuysen
Jan van Epenhuysen (left in the corner with beard) here at an easter dinner at the Orthodox community of Vanves near Paris in the sixties. He changed his name to Hilarion.xerapotamou-viale xerapotamou-entrance
According to writer Koert ter Veen Van Epenhuysen was known as Hilarion of Xiropotamou. On the photos the courtyard and entrance of this monastery. I assume he spend the rest of his life in this monastery but  I found no more information about him.xerapotamou-prayerAnother image of Xiropotamou in 2013 during the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. epenhuysen-graf
Hilarion died in 2000 at the age of 94. He was probably buried on the Holy Mountain. In the Netherlands there is this  familygrave with a stone:
In rememberance
J. van Epenhuysen
Hieromonk Hilarion
11 sept 1906 – 19 oct 2000

Herman Voogd

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1854 – A meeting with an unknown Russian wandering monk (бродячая монах)?

schermafbeelding-2016-10-04-om-22-58-45(Picture by Raymond Geldermans, July 1960)
In July 1960, when Raymond Geldermans pilgrimated from Iviron to Pantocrator he found a uninhabited house. In its neighbourhood he saw two monks. One of them was Russian. They started talking. The monk didn’t seem to have any knowledge of the end of WW II, 15 years earlier. His outside world was practically non-existent. Like the ignorant Japanese soldiers who were found on a remote island in the Philippines even 60 years after the war, unaware of the peace. While giving his blessings he offered Raymond a cool glass of water, which came as a gift from heaven. The monk used a lobster can from California to hoist the fresh water from the source.
In the picture he seems to make a gesture of a true holy man. His white hair and beard form a union. He made a little knot at the end of his beard. He greets us in a humble and friendly way. He probably was a gyrovague or siromahki, a wandering monk who relies on the hospitality of his guest. They don’t belong to any monastery. They don’t have a home. They go from monastery to monastery.
We hope that this man will not be forgotten. This picture makes us remember this man. There might be people who know more about him. We would like to give him a name, we would like to give him an identity. So we can truly remember him and call his name.
Thanks to Raymond Geldermans for his inspiration; the picture and the story.

Bas Kamps

According to Alex the man on the photo is starets Tikhon, the spiritual father of Paisios the Agioritis: this means the text above is outdated.

In 1968, Father Paisios went to Stavronikita Monastery, where he assisted in its renovation by offering labor work as well as spiritual advice. In the Holy Cross cell of Stavronikita Monastery, located near by, lived Father Tychon, the ascetic, who was also a spiritual father. (Ft. Tychon was born in 1884 in Novia Mihaloska of Russia. He was a very gifted man and lived a strict ascetic life). Elder Paisios often visited him for spiritual advice and helped him with the service of Divine Liturgy by serving as chanter. Quite frequently, the service was in spiritual contemplation, which sometimes lasted half an hour. He saw, as he himself confessed, the orders of the angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim glorifying God. Father Tychon tonsured Elder Paisios and gave him the Great and Angelic Schema.
When Father Tychon’s life was coming to an end, (ten days before he passed away), he asked the Elder to stay by his side and take care of him. Paisios served Father Tychon with great self-sacrifice, offering him anything he could to comfort him. Father Tychon used to tell him: “Paisios, our love is precious. My sweet Paisios, our love, my child, will last unto the ages of ages.” He asked him to stay in his cell after his death and promised that he will visit him every year. Father Tychon fell asleep on September 10, 1968, two days after the celebration of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos, as he himself had predicted, being well equipped and ready for his journey to eternity.
Father Paisios settled down at the cell of the Holy Cross, according to the wish of Father Tychon, where he stayed until 1979.

Text from http://www.pigizois.net

Timothy and Giannis showing us this picture:tikhon-hieromonk-1

Herman Voogd

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1853 – Skiti Andreou: historical pictures

skiti-andreou-historical-picture7-skullsThe ossuary of Andreou: also see the more recent pictures of Raymond Geldermans from April 1982 in post 1851.skiti-andreou-historical-picture8-dinerThe old trapeza: this mist be the oval room on the picture below, taken from the garden. Notice the wall paintings: nowadays they disappeared totally (see picture below)!dscn6956-garden-1-largeold-trapezaToday the old trapeza looks like this. How can it be that all paintings are gone? Nothing is left, not even a fragment! Did they just fall from the walls or were they stolen? old-trapeza-tablesathos-skiti-andreou-5-juli-1905Historical picture of the Serail on 5th of July 1905 (Feast of Athanasius): in front of the trapeza numerous monks sit in the courtyard and have their meal in the open air.skiti-andreou-abt-1908The abbot in 1908, Archimandrite Seraphim of the Serail. At that moment the power of this settlement was at its height. The picture is made by the “house-photographer” of the Skiti.skiti-andreou-historical-pictureOfficial visitors/military in the main church: one of them is allowed to stand in the abbots chair, just like president Putin last May in the Protaton.skiti-andreou-historical-picture2 skiti-andreou-historical-picture3Group picture on 15 June 1914skiti-andreou-historical-picture4Workers/monks in front of the iconostasis in the main churchskiti-andreou-historical-picture5-bakeryThe bakery: in the background a painting, maybe with saint Silouan? skiti-andreou-historical-picture6-carpentersCarpenters in their workshopskiti-andreou-historical-picture9-tailorsTailors

athos-skiti-andreou-the-last-russian-monk-summer-1965The last Russian monk in Andreou, summer 1965 – from the Feigl book about Athos (Forhoelle des Paradies). Soon after he died and the Serail was handed over to Vatopediou, the owner of the land of Skiti Andreou.

Wim Voogd, 2/10

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1852 – Skiti Andreou by Gerard Koolschijn

Photo by Gerard Koolschijn: Sk. Andreou, the red chapel,  in 1970 with Dutch writer Nicolaas Matsier (Tjit Reinsma) sitting on the stairs of the katholicon.

Dutch writer and translater Gerard Koolschijn wrote in his autobiographical novel Geen Sterveling Weet how he visited the Russian skiti of Andreou (Serail) in the early 70ties. This is what he wrote (in Dutch):andreou-oudshoorn-athos
“Ik kon geen monnik meer zien. Maar het Russische Sérail mocht ik niet overslaan. Het lag op mijn pad, dichtbij het hoofddorp. Er was geen portier. Op de binnenhof stond tussen meniekleurige cellengebouwen en gastenverblijven een kerk als een kathedraal. Uitgemergelde katten schoten onder omrasteringen weg. Door het gras liep een smal, platgetreden spoor naar de marmeren trap van het hoofdgebouw. De hol klinkende gangen hingen vol schilderijen van tsaren en ankerende stoomschepen. Op de trapleuningen stonden lantaarntjes. De eetzaal voor vijftienhonderd monniken lag vol rottende bladeren. Ik trof de oude werkplaatsen open, waar reusachtige spinnenwebben van tafels naar werkbanken, van krukken naar kabinetten waren geweven. Tandartsapparatuur hing nog boven een patiëntenstoel als een divan, met een ongeëvenaard uitzicht op de Berg. Achter de glazen ruitjes van de apotheek zaten rammelende grijze brokjes en knisperend gifgroen gruis in vergeeld geëtiketteerde flesjes. Langs een wenteltrap naar het souterrain afgedaald, vond ik in een duistere ruimte laarzen in alle maten en kleuren, ingezakt, gekromd of omgevallen, verspreid over de vloer, alsof een peloton soldaten ze in alle haast had uitgetrokken. In de schoenmakerij waren laden vol schoensmeer, lijmpotjes, kwasten. Mijn enige paar was volkomen versleten. De schoen waarvan de zool al losliet trok ik uit. Ik haalde uit een gereedschapskist een grote schaar, knipte de hard geworden lijm met ijdele hoop in stroken, propte die tussen de schoen en zool en zette de hele zaak in een klem. Op één schoen hinkte ik terug naar een bank op de binnenhof. Bij het stenen waterbekken naast me was in de houten drinkbeker ‘Jezus Christus overwint’ gekrast. Kraaien krasten op de ingevallen daken.andreou-oudshoornDe enorme kloosterkerk was naar verhouding gaaf, de kruisen op de koepel leken met rode, lichtblauwe en groene juwelen bezet. In de toren waren de verroeste klepels van de manshoge klokken tegen de binnenwand vastgezet. De verleiding was groot ze los te maken en met veel kabaal de doden op te roepen.
Ik haalde mijn gelijmde schoen op en duwde voorzichtig de enorme kerkdeur open. In het portaal hoorde ik tot mijn verbazing ijl gezang. Geruisloos opende ik een binnendeur. Goud en zilver blonken me tegen, kroonluchters en kandelaars. Op mijn tenen liep ik naar een muurstoel. Vier hoogbejaarde monniken stonden voor een gigantische, barokke iconenwand naast één stokoude, kromgebogen voorzanger. Ze keken niet om. Hun zachte klanken, niet nasaal zoals in de andere kloosters, maar melodieus, vulden de geweldige ruimte met een hartverscheurend heimwee. Ik zag ze als jongetjes spelen in hun dorp op een eindeloze Russische vlakte, onwetend dat ze hier als grijsaards zouden sterven”.matsier-koolschijn-oudshoorn
From right to left Wim Oudshoorn who made the black and white photographs of the church above,  a smiling Gerard Koolschijn and Nicolaas Matsier (Tjit Reinsma) with their schoolteacher Herman Hissink (far left) in the early seventies somewhere on the east slopes of Mount Athos. This is the location.

Thanks to Gerard Koolschijn

Herman Voogd

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1851 – The Russian skulls of skiti Andreou

When Raymond Geldermans travelled to the Holy Mountain in 1972 and in 1982 he found the skiti of Andreou, alias the Serail, completely in ruins. As Wim recently pointed out in recent posts the skiti still has its ruins. But in those days it was practically left alone, it was dying. The complex was about to collapse.andreou-serail-1972
This picture is taken in the spring of 1972. The serious condition of the building is obvious. The stairs were covered with shrubberies. The building on the left was literally falling apart (picture by Raymond Geldermans, april 1972). How could this happen?
The Serail was a Russian settlement, since the late nineteenhunderds, and had its heydays before the Russian Revolution. Grand Duke Aleksey Alexandrovitch, son of Tsar Alexander II lay the first stone of the big church on the 16th of june 1867. The imposing size of the complex, by far the biggest on Athos was a horror to the Greek, who nicknamed it the Serail, the palace. From the 1917 revolution the influx of Russian monks dried up due to travel restrictions in the communist era. In the sixties only one Russian monk lived in the skiti. When he passed away the complex was left completely empty. Later it was taken over by the Greek who started restoration work.
For Geldermans it was an intense Pompeï experience. As he wrote: In ictu oculi, in the twinkling of an eye, all life is petrified. There was a shoemakers workshop, a chemist and much more. As if the monks could return anytime.woods-sketi-andreou
A misty morning walk towards the Serail. This picture has got a special quiet and mysterious atmosphere. Exactly how a walk on the Holy Mountain should be (picture by Raymond Geldermans, april 1982).fence-andreou-deadA warning sign posted on the entrance door. The sign reads: “Attention, danger, death”, as if death is an infectious disease you have to be warned for. (picture by Raymond Geldermans, april 1982). In an attempt to find the exact location of the ossuary, Geldermans came to the conclusion that is must have been building D in Wims recent post. It is the L-shaped building on top of the map. Nowadays all the floors have disappeared and so, probably, have the human remains.12-skulls-andreou-serail
An enormous collection of skulls piled up in an open cupboard. Eleven layers and at least twenty skulls per board. So hundreds of them, several generations of monks. It seems to be the complete group of Russian monks who worshipped, prayed and worked here since the middle of the 19th century. Memento Mori (picture by Raymond Geldermans, april 1982).andreou-last-monkThe skull and bones of the last monk, as Geldermans called this picture,  collected in a rusted olive oil can. Probably after someone collected the remains to store it somewhere. It looks as if it was forgotten and left alone. Contemporary Pompeï. When there was no living soul left there anymore. (picture by Raymond Geldermans, april 1982) 122-andreou-skulls
Many skulls were displayed on shelves….124-andreou-skulls-chairsome were put to rest on a chair…123-skulls-andreou
And the last ones seems forgotten.
Normally a deceased monk will stay for 3 years or longer in a grave. When there is need for the grave because another father has died, monks dig up the bones and skull and bring the remains to an οστεοφυλάκιο ossuary. Name and day of death are put on the forehead of the skull (all above pictures by Raymond Geldermans, april 1982).serail-2013A lot has changed since those dying days. Nowadays the domes and crosses glow again in the morning sun as signs of a brighter future (picture by Bas Kamps, September 2013).
Bas Kamps & Herman Voogd

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1850 – Andreou: “the old chapel”

andreoutrapToday we take a closer look at this extraordinary building (letter J on the plan – see last post 1849). Most visitors pass this building and don’t pay attention to it because it’s old, partly in ruins and it has been closed for public as long as I know. But last year I noticed that behind the building renovation activities were carried out, so I decided to have a closer look and I climbed the white stone stairs, that lies besides the red coloured wall. This is what I saw:dscn7041-largedscn7043-largedscn7042-largedscn7044-largeI did know if it was permitted to be here, but because nobody saw me, so I took the opportunity to sneak into the chapel, where I found this:dscn7040-largeTo my surprize the walls of the chapel were completely decorated with paintings, which is unusually for Russian churches (on Mount Athos, where the interior mostly is white)! The paintings and the rest of the interior – the iconostasis – were also being renovated. Here are some more pictures of the wall paintings:dscn7039-largeThrough this door I entered the building.dscn7038-largeDetails of the Northern part of the chapel, with apostel Marcus and Saint Antonin .. on the left side.dscn7037Details of the South part of the chapel, in the direction of the main gate, with Saint Matheus above the iconostasis.dscn7036-largeAbove on the ceiling: image of God the Fatherdscn7035-largeBright blue, green red and yellow colours appear on the walls!

Not only these paintings were very surprizing, but the position of the building J, compared with the others surrounding buildings, rose questions. Why is it slightly turned and why is a part of the building totally lost/in ruins? And how old could this building be? I had to dig into my photo archive to get answers, and I found these images that helped me. skiti-apostolou-andrea-serai-06But first another (panoramic) picture of the building J and its surroundings.0108-agiou-andreou-april-1972-1This is how it looked like in 1972: the colour red on the outside wall is visible and most of the plaster is intact (photo by Raymond Geldermans)aerial-andreou1Andreou seen from the air, I assume this from the same period 1960/70, although on this picture I can not see the white stone stairs next to building. The stairs might have been build a little later, maybe because of the fact that the adjacent building collapsed and the entrance to the chapel had to be restored? Lets have a look at some older images:andreou-1841This the oldest image I found, a drawing. Here  in 1841 Skiti Andreou excists of only one building: our red chapel!  There are no stairs next to the chapel and the adjacent building still stands: to reach the chapel you had to go through this building.andreou-chapel

 Another picture of the old chapel in Andreou, probably also from 1841 (look at the tree/cypress left from it).andreou-old-building1859-60The first picture of the original cell called Ag. Antoniou / skiti Andreou in 1859/60.andreou-before-1900On this postcard (a drawing) the old chapel is to be seen at the red arrow, but now the surrounding buildings have appeared. The picture below shows the excact same situation. The Western wing is still under construction.andreou-serail-2

starchenkov-litho-andreou-1872kopieThis litho Starchenkov dates from 1872 and shows almost the same situation as the postcard above.andreou-serail-aerail-begin-1900On this aerial picture the large church, finished in 1900, is ready. andreou-serail-litho-ca-1900And on this litho form the Feigl book you can see the large church with the old chapel in front of it. andreou-serail-3All these pictures prove according to me that “the old chapel”was the first building of skiti Andreou and that it dates from at least 1841 (or earlier). The adjacent building, where the monks lived, clearly had a minor quality and it collapsed after the building slowly got deserted after 1920, when the Russians no longer could sent any novices to Athos. Because of bad maintenance this part of the building slowly collapsed and in the beginning of the 60/70-ties of the last century it fell into ruins. Soon after came the necessity to build the stone stairs (with an iron stairs on top of it – see the first picture in this post), to be able to reach the old chapel.

In 2015 the restauration activities were in full progress. I wonder how it look like in a few years: will it be restored according to the situation in 1841, with the old images as shown above as an example? When time comes I hope to show you the results.

Wim Voogd, 28/9/2016

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