2044 – a visit to the Mar Saba monastery near Bethlehem

This weblog is about Athos. But every now and then I have to report something not directly related to the Holy Mountain, because of its importance or beauty. Today I will show some photos of the Greek orthodox monastery Mar Saba – Saint Savvas – in Palestina (or Israel if you like), that I visited on the 2th of March this year.

March 2nd 2019: a cloudy winter day in the Judean desert: Mar Saba monastery

Its history is unique and amazing and the founding dates back to the year 483, when the Holy Father St. Savvas gathered with other hermits in the Judean desert, in the Kidron valley. The hermitage grew slowly and in 502 AD the first main church was build. And until this day we can count 1536 years of unceacing monasticsim on this spot. Read the full history here on the site of Mystagogy.

I took a taxi from Bethlehem and payed 120 shekel to get there (about 10 km). The cab driver waited for me to take me back. On arriving at the monastery religious women from a East European country were standing at the main entrance to pray and kiss the walls. Just like on Athos, women are not allowed to enter the monastery! Today only 12 monks remain: according to the monk I spoke it is difficult to find novices who want to live here in the (hot) desert……

Arriving at the monastery: female pilgrims gather at the gate
Women in front the main gate
Looking East: a defence tower outside the monastery
The courtyard and entrance to the main church
The Agiou Savvas chapel in the courtyard

The relics of St. Savvas are still in the main church and where shown to me by a nice monk, who gave me a quick tour in the church (and who spoke perfect English). The story about the remnants of St. Savvas is extraordinary: the crusaders stole the corps during the first crusade (1096 -1099) and took it to the church of Saint Antonin in Venice. The relics of St. Savvas were returned by the Catholic church in 1965, read more about this here.

The return of St. Savvas to Mar Saba in 1965
A short fim in Greek of the journey from Venice to Israel

Let’s have closer look at the monastery, first at the interior of courtyard chapel – nr 5.

the cenotaph of St. Savvas
The wall paintings an cenotaph look newly painted and are of exemplary quality
the small dome
a painting with the location of the monastery
turning the camera to the left, the next scene
the next scene, with three Saints
the next scene
the scene above the cenotaph
following the scenes to the left of the lower part of the chapel
St Savvas in Judean desert
St. Savvas meets the Theotokos
St. Savvas and lions
the entrance door to room nr 9, the exo-narthex
the exo-narthex
Cherubs on the ceiling
the wall painting at the far end of the exo-narthex
The exo-narthex: the crucifixion of Christ
side door with saints
a water tap and sink
the stained glass window and door to the balcony – nr 13/14 on the plan
the wooden and iron talanton
The balcony looking at Kidron valley
the Kidron valley – direction West
the Kidron valley – East direction
the monk announcing the service on his semantron
the caves of the hermits, with the cave of St. Savvas on the right
the St. Savvas hermitage
a bridge over the river Kidron
clay pots on a balcony
The domes of the main church
a plaque of St. Michael
A plaque of St. Savvas
an old door in the front wall
a stone stairway at nr 1 of the plan
the entrance, seen from inside
the bell at the entrance
the entrance
the Eastern valley: some caves at the far end of the valley are still inhabited according to the caretaker Wasil
The Bedouin caretaker Wasil, who works 19 years for the monastery – photo internet
time to go back to Bethlehem

Wasil told that is possible to sleep in the monastery and stay the night over. Beware, non-orthodox pilgrims are not allowed in church. The monk I spoke had many reasons not to include other Christian believers, because they made the wrong choice……. But he was thankful for the gift I gave him: incense made by Father David from kellion Timiou Stavrou in Provata-Athos!

Wim Voogd, 20-03-2019

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2043 – The Holy Mountain today

Seen from 13000 meter, on a flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam:

The top surrounded by clouds

Cape Arapis, Amouliani and Ierissos, with a snow covered Mount Olympos in the background

Wim, 4/3

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2042 – Mount Athos by Edward Lear: new site

Lavra, courtesy of Reeman Dansie

Stephen Duckworth has completed a website on the 1856 travels of Edward Lear with all the beautiful drawings of the monasteries.

Simonas Petras, courtesy of Sotheby’s

This is the link to the website.

The buildings from Ag. Nelios or Nilos seen from the sea with the Mountain in the background. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Herman Voogd

Posted in 01 Lavra, 13 Simonos Petras, art | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

2041 – the Cas Oorthuys photo collection from 1957 online

More than 10 years I published two posts in nr 646 and 649 about two articles from 1957 in the Dutch magazine Katholieke Illustratie, written by the Dutch writer A. den Doolaard, who was accompanied by the famous Dutch photographer Cas Oorthuys (1908-1975).

Cas Oorthuys 1957 – The trapeza of Panteleimonos: two originals of the Cas Oorthuys photos hang on the wall in a Greek restaurant in Amsterdam called “Romios

His complete collection, consisting of 447 contact albums with ten thousands of photos, is kept in the National Photo Museum in Rotterdam. Last year the museum started a crowdsource project, named “Captions for Cas”, a part of a large project aimed at preserving, digitizing and describing his archive.

I was lucky to do my share and describe the photos he took when he went to Athos in 1957, together with his friend A. den Doolaard.

And now the results are online available and the contact albums are to be seen on this site of the photomuseum .

Cas Oorthuys 1957 – A hermit

Wim Voogd, 9/2

Posted in 19 Panteleimonos, art, history | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

2040 – the hike from Konstamonitou to Docheiariou

I am probably one of the worst pathfinders you can find. Our plan was to hike to Docheiariou and try to walk over as many monopati’s as possible. With the new map of Peter Holworth in our rucksack we left from Konstamonitou. A monk told us just before leaving that is was very easy to find a monopati leading to Docheiariou: “No problem”, he said.

Walking the (boring) dirt road instead of a monopati

Well, this turned out quit different: only the last few hundred meters, with Docheiariou in sight, we finally found the monopati that we had been looking for. But in hindsight it would not have been easy to find the right track and I think there is a huge job to be done for the Footpath team of the Friends of Mount Athos this year!

Let me show what happened, but first a picture of more than 10 beehives of Konstamonitou, along the dirt road leading to the sea/the arsanas.

Just outside Konstamonitou, on the dirt road to the West

One of the most important things (when you don’t want to get lost immediately after starting your hike) is to find the correct path right away. We decided to take the dirt road, expecting that we would find a turn to monopati soon, but making that decision, we already made our first big mistake. Let’s first have look at a detail of the new map of Peter Holworth. 

If you look at the map it looks logical to follow the white road leading from the monastery to the coast. But you also can see black dotted line (a path) with a red color leading to the South and away from monastery going landinwards. This is the path that we should have chosen to walk monopati’s (but eventually it would have given us lots of troubles), but I’ll first show you the route we walked (see Wikiloc).

Konstamonitou – Docheiariou: 6,75 km 1 h. 37 min.
In the red ring on the map above: Analepseos you Kyriou “Sounion”, seen from the dirt road
Beautiful green valleys along the shore (looking to the North)

On the map below you can see where I took my photo’s:

a junction at point A with pilgrim Jitze
We continued the dirt road that went straight ahead, towards Docheiariou
The second junction at point B: turn to the right.
Point B: looking down at the sea and Docheiariou

Just before the solar power plant (point D) the dirt road makes a sharp turn:

But before going to see the solar energy panels we found this new garden (point C):

The road leading to the garden. We hoped to find a path that would lead us directly to monastery, but we couldn’t find one
Red peppers
solar energy for Docheiariou
In a corner of the solar power plant we found this path leading us further.
a small hut with a water pipe going to Docheiariou

The dirt road going down through a valley: we were still waiting to find the first traces of a monopati leading to the monastery…….

And than, finally, at point D, not a monopati, but a well kept kalderimi path appears! Here the camera points to the East: where does this path goes to?

The path leading from to the monastery to ….?

on the map below I drew a red line where according to me the kalderimi might lead to. Isn’t it beautiful job for the FoMA footpath team to find out if the monopati to Konstamonitou might still exist and can they maybe re-open it?

The possible route of the monopati with two question marks where they path seems to be overgrown?
The area near the power plant where the path might start
Photo shot at point F on the map above: Docheiariou comes in sight
The last few meters before arriving at the monastery, but more important: this is how to find the path on leaving the monastery!
This is where the kalderimi in Docheiariou starts
arriving at the monastery after almost two hours (1,5 h walking)
The roofs of buildings with a taxi boat passing by

Wim, 31/1

Posted in 10 Docheiariou, 20 Konstamonitou, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

2039 – a short visit to Konstamonitou – 2

Let’s continue our visit to Konstamonitou on September 18th 2018 (see 2038 for post 1). After entering the monastery through the main entrance (Δ), we turned right, to go to the archondariki – guesthouse on the second floor (Z2).

the sign pointing to the archondariki, at the round stairs in the South-East corner

Waiting for the archondaris, together with the three pilgrims from Athens. The helped me asking and translating an important question to the guestmaster: “how can we make a reservation for a night in the monastery”? The monastery does not use email to communicate and calling by phone or faxing usually gives problems. The answer was surprisingly simple: “just come to the monastery, we will always have a place to sleep”! This sounded like the old days on the Holy Mountain, when reservations were not an obligation and you could just simply announce your arrival.

This notice below is important for non-orthodox pilgrims: they are not allowed to attend services in church and the meal in the trapeza. This is such a pity for non-orthodox pilgrims. I hope the monks responsible for this decision once will understand that this not the way to promote orthodoxy to other pilgrims.

The first floor: monks cells (H)
The balcony of the guesthouse (build in 1820)

The katholicon seen from the guesthouse (A) with the bell-tower on the left (A1)

Let’s make a tour around the katholicon:

Direct left after the entrance: the fountain (B1)
The fountain left and the entrance to the exo-narthex and katholicon on the right
The entrance to the katholicon
The church dates from 1867: the Holy Deacon and Protomartyr Stephen (left) and right Agios Isapostulos (Equal-to-the Apostles) Konstantinos the Great, to whom the Katholicon is dedicated (thanks Bertinos)
Two wooden semantrons and a hammer in the corner of the exo-narthex
The North-West corner – the hospital/ wine cellar / bakery
The North-West corner and katholicon, with two stainless steel wine barrels
East wing: the half-broken slope leading to monks cell quarters (H)
Looking at the other direction: the East wing – cells of monks and spirits distillery (H and M3)
The South quarters – the archondariki
The stairs that lead to the guesthouse
The same spot in 1997, 21 years ago (almost nothing has changed)
Leaving the monastery: a cat at the entrance hall – in the background a fountain for fresh water
Cracks in the dome at the entrance, with a painting of dove of the Holy Spirit

We left the monastery, after having asked the right way to go to Docheiariou, following a monopati. We were told that it would be easy to find. This information did not seem to be entirely correct. Next time more about this hike.

The green forrest surrounding Konstamonitou.

Wim Voogd, 27/1/2019

Posted in 20 Konstamonitou, Trip 2018 | 1 Comment

2038 – a short visit to Konstamonitou – 1

On the 2018 pilgrimage to Athos our itinerary started at arsanas Konstamonitou. On the boat to Dafni we met mr. Hadrian from Holland, who has been following our weblog for a quit a while, but this was the first time we met, not knowing that we both were visiting Athos on this particular day!

Three pilgrims: your webmaster, Hadrian and Jitze

We got of at arsanas Konstamonitou, together with three pilgrims from Athens. We were lucky that a van was standing on the pier and the driver offered us a ride to the monastery. That saved us half an hour’s walk!

Detail of the Holworth map: from arsanas Konstamonitou to Konstamonitou monastery
Our friends from Athens on the van
Looking back at arsanas Sografou and the ruined tower
Arriving at the monastery: gardens and kellion

When you look the your left at this point you will see this ruined house.

The house in ruins
A detail of the ruined house: two crosses, one standing on the roof – the chapel of Agia Triada and the second build in the wall, together with an triangle, with the Eye of God
a Kellion next to the gardens of the monastery
Outside the monastery: a place to relax and talk with monks (and have a smoke).
the West facade of the monastery
arriving at the monastery
The plan of Konstamonitou (by Mylonas – 2000): at the black arrow is the entrance
The South wall of the monastery: left from the entrance

The South wall of the monastery: right from the entrance, the archondariki – guesthouse
The entrance to Konstamonitou
detail of the wall paitings above the entrance (dating from 1875)
Agios Stephanos holding the church in his hand
going through the entrance of Konstamonitou

Next time more pictures of the courtyard of Konstamonitou.

Wim Voogd, 27-01-19

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