We spend the night in Pantocratoros. In the morning we allowed ourselves some time to wonder around the courtyard of Pantocratoros. I took the opportunity to take some pictures, that I want to share with you.
tree contrasts with the ox-blood painted walls and the beige keep. The brick walls
are well restored. There is a domed white marble baptismal font. One tree trunk
is painted white. The fog surpassed the night.
The same orange tree with a blue background. The part over the central gate. The white pillars are an illusion; they are painted onto the stucco. The windows are real.
From the first floor is a wonderful view of the katholikon, the main church. Due to the high humidity a special reflection on the lead strips appeared.
The church bell with the katholikon.
meditative floor of the central courtyard. The richness of colour and shapes is
just stunning. Easy to overlook such a floor. But once you have seen it, there
is no resistance against its simple and pure
An overview of the inner courtyard with the top of the baptismal font and the main entrance of the katholikon.
A detail of the leadworks on the roof of the katholikon.
To take the
time to explore the details of the courtyard proved very inspiring. There is so
much beauty and wonder in the simple aspects of Athonian buildings, a floor, a
tile, a lead construction. All details are filled with a sense of spirituality.
beautiful coastal path from Stavronikita to Pantocratoros starts with a view on
the slated roofs of service buildings in front of the actual monastery. In my
opinion this is a fascinating perspective. A manmade stone world with an
ancient cypress as a natural contrast.
Looking back to Stavronikita. This part of the monopati is secluded. The path is covered by trees. From a birds eye perspective you wouldn’t notice a trail. The ground is humid and scattered with dead leaves. It is an extremely pleasant walk. The path rises and falls gently in a pleasant rhythm. The monopati follows mainly the coastal line. The rain had stopped and we dried up slowly. A branch delivered its collected water it had kept just until we passed by.
Only at a
few spots the dense foliage opens up for a view. The summit of the Holy
Mountain was still embraced by clouds. A long string of clouds rose slowly behind
A more detailed look at Stavronikita from Pantocratoros. The picture was shot with a tele lens. The enormous efforts to save the monastery are clearly visible. It was built on a rock formation that became unstable after the earthquake of 1905. We wrote about this before: “Heavy reinforcements are made just under the building in the rocks to withstand the elements. These structures were built because a series of earthquakes severely damaged the rock on which the monastery was erected. There were serious concerns about the stability of the structure. It could fall off the cliff. The heavy earthquake of 1905, 7,5 on the Richter scale, of which the epicentre lay close to Stavronikita under the sea, is described by Herman in this blog.”
interesting leaflet about the restauration of the tower and the western wing is
available via internet. This is a page from
The mayor restauration on the foundation was executed by the Center for the Preservation of Athonite Heritage, a Greek government organisation, based in Thessaloniki. Via the Waybackmachine, an internet archive, I found some information on the restauration.
When we were walking in Kapsala we met a friendly man in the rain. He explained that it was not easy to find the correct road to Stavronikita. He went to get some water in a nearby house.
When he came back he showed where he lived; in an old Russian ruined church. The building was open, it had no windows. He was happy with just a matrass on the floor. He used to be working in the Greek army. Now he worked in the gardens and fields of Mt. Athos from time to time.
Wim made in 2017 posts of the exterior and the interior of the ruined large Russian kellion of St. John Chrysostomos. Now there is a new inhabitant. He prefers the loneliness and the poor conditions there over a bed in one of the houses around. We didn’t dare to stay in the church for long, or go to the next floor, afraid that the walls or parts of the building would collaps. Wim climbed upstairs in 2017 and found the skulls of the previous Russian residents.
Trees, scrub and creepers had taken over the place. This was beyond repair. Not even a sack full of Russian money could restore this settlement. The ruins, the powerful nature, the friendly loner, it made quit an impression on us.
Through a large hole in the wall of the settlement we continued our walk to Stavronikita ( see post 2070) after saying goodbye to our new friend.
We found ourselves on the dirt road between skiti Agiou Andreou and Stavronikita. We hoped to spend the night in Stavronikita. The idea to sleep in a monastery without electric light enthralled us. But for the moment, the fog had changed into rain. The drops were getting bigger and bigger. We were prepared for that. But unfortunately I was unable to release the rain cover from my backpack.
I tried to protect my dry goods with an umbrella. I failed, as I later discovered.
(After a summer break I will pick up the blog about our April 2019 pilgrimage. The last episode, ‘the Glory of Agiou Andreou’, can be found here.)
This was the last view of Andreou before we lingered down to the coast on a rather unexciting dirt road. Here there was not an ancient monopati leading to the Thracian sea.
view of Pantocratoros with its dominant donjon. We were still strolling in the
Looking back to the Holy Mountain. A very active cloud system surrounded the invisible peak. The buildings belong to the monastery of Filotheou, I guess. There was still some white winter memories hidden in the coolest and darkest crevasses and on northern slopes of the mountain.
A birds eye perspective on Pantocratoros and its arsanas. The monastic complex looks like one enormous defensive unity. On the top of the donjon we see some modern artefacts; solar panels and a heating installation.
combed fields are ready for the crops to leave the underground. Some of the
bigger trees are still waiting for their leaves.
Arriving at Stavronikita. Ancient olive trees greeted us. The showers had passed but the cobbled stones were still shining. We were going to ask the archondaris if he had room in his guesthouse for four good humoured pilgrims who had walked from Karies, Koutloumousiou and Andreou in the mist and the rain.
Pilgrim Herman, with his rain protection on his head and a rain cover over his backpack, is approaching Stavronikita. The frog-green tractor awaits its next challenge. Behind the vehicle colourful boxes lay waiting to transport vegetables. The impressive aquaduct and its mirror image is just visible.
In the monastery we learned that they were not able to give us hospitality; they were already fully booked. We should have booked way ahead in advance. They can only host a few pilgrims. We sat outside under the grape balcony admiring the ancient cypress and ate some energy bars out of our backpacks.
Before we left Stavronikíta we strolled in the surroundings. We walked towards the ossuary with its antique pillars. This perspective from the cemetery is very appealing. The arches of the old water supply are clearly visible. After this sightseeing we decided to walk further to Pantocratoros, where we had received hospitality on one of our earlier pilgrimages.
about Stavronikita here and here. And some old and new pictures here. At last a beautiful watercolour of Stavronikita by Edward Lear.
In 1980 monk Apollo moved in Monastery of Docheiariou in Mount Athos. In spring 1986 his monastery had remained without telephone for over five months, something not unusual on Mount Athos. One of the monks was injured in his eye but they went to the Hospital after 2 days because of lack of communications. When Mr Georgiadis (SV2RE), an ophthalmology professor, heard the story, he recommended that somebody in the monastery become an amateur radio operator, in order to guarantee communication in case of emergency. So in 1988 Monk Apollo obtained his radio amateur license and the call SV2ASP. He needed 2 more years to get the license from Holy Council. Finally he was on the air for first time in 1990. He celebrated his 10 years on the air with the call SY2A in 2000 and he was trying to find some free time to be on the air when his monastic duties allowed him.
Read more about his live and career here and here.
Sometimes beautiful treasures are not far away. Our fellow Athos pilgrim Jacques from Haarlem stumbled upon a second hand bookshop in Amsterdam, showing numerous Athos books in the window. When I visited the antiquarian bookshop last week the owner told me he had been able to buy almost 70 Athos-books from a collector who passed away, in many different languages, and also many in Greek. His shop can be reached in this link: antiquariaat Brinkman.
If you buy a book here, please mention my name.
The first I bought is in German by Wolfgang von Löhneysen, published in 1991, 393 pages, with pictures in black and white. Below you’ll see a drawing kept in the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris: “The drawing must be a template of a woodcut, which precedes the Greek Latin edition of the travel guide Johannes Komnenos as a cover image”. This (rather mystical) text accompanies the drawing, I’ll have to find out later what it might mean.
In past months fellow pilgrim
Gert Jan bought these fine maps on the internet as a present for me:
Here Athos is not shown as a separate peninsula: the whole of Chalkidiki is one piece of land under Adrianopolis. The next map is more accurate and dates from 1790:
Here a detail of Chalkidiki and Athos:
This is the second book
I bought in the bookshop in Amsterdam: it is published in 1880 and its has ten very
early pictures (héliogravures) and two “fac-simile” from Athos. It is in French
and the complete title is: L’Athos: D’une excursion a la presqu’ile et a la
montagne des moines.
Pictures nr 10 is from a church in Rumenia, not shown here.