2083 – Derek Hill and the Holy Mountain

At the harbour of Vatopedi you may find a restored fountain and a kiosk, that were built in memory of Derek Hill, “who showed a genuine love for the monasteries of the Holy Mountain”, as is engraved in the memorial stone. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Friends of Mount Athos.

Here we see him on the left in the company of Sir Steven Runciman, Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia and Graham Speake (Orthodox name: Gregory Palamas).

He has travelled to Athos 15 times. (Another source mentions: 25 times.) He took Bruce Chatwin there. As told in Nicholas Shakespeare’s article (Telegraph, 2010, August 16th) about Chatwin’s Journey to Mount Athos.

“Hill was a friend of the Abbot of Chilandari monastery, who could facilitate their permits. Finally, in May 1985, Hill agreed to accompany Chatwin. He told me: “I was slightly apprehensive because he was a great complainer. I thought he’d find the monks smelly or the beds hard or that the loos stank. But it was a revelation to him.”

Derek Hill (1916 – 2000) was considered to be the “last of the gentlemen painters” as stated in the Guardian’s obituary (2000, August 10th.). He was well known both for his portraits of famous people (artists, actors, politicians, royalty) as well of his landscape paintings.

He described himself as a loner. In the book by Gray Gowrie, Derek Hill, an appreciation (1987):

“I try to make it a rule to be alone several hours every day wherever I am. Certainly there are periods in the year when I want to be alone, as when I go to Tory Island or do one of my pilgrimages to Mount Athos.”

In my quest I found three of his paintings in connection to Athos. Two of waiting monks on Athonian piers. A very recognisable scene for pilgrims who have been on Athos; waiting for the ferry. Sometimes you can wait a long time on the pier. You don’t want to be late, when there’s only one boat. And if the weather is rough the boat can be late. The atmosphere of a long wait is very well caught. In addition I found one portrait of a monk. 

I expected to find many more paintings after 15 or 25 pilgrimages, especially of the landscape which he must have found extremely inspiring. He loved painting landscapes. And because he was fond of traveling, he made paintings of landscapes all over the world. Many paintings can be found from from his cabin on the isolated Tory Island, which is just off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. I couldn’t find any Athonian landscapes.

This painting is called Three Monks from Mount Athos.

The title of this oil painting is “Waiting for the early boat”.

The portrait of a Athonite monk.

From Bruce Arnold´s biography of Derek Hill:

“Hill was good with Prince Charles. Their friendship began after Hill did a portrait of the young Prince for Trinity College Cambridge following his graduation. He helped the Prince with his own paintings and introduced the Prince to the painters who he then invited to go on royal trips. So there was a good friendship.

Derek kept up with the Prince right to the end of this life and one of the last people to see him alive was Prince Charles.”

He did portrait the Prince of Wales twice. Here we have the Prince as a young man, nineteen years. Hill was an artistic guide and advisor for the Prince’s painting. Much later the Prince became the Royal Patron of the Friends of Mount Athos.

Hill, Derek; HRH Charles, Prince of Wales (b.1948), Honorary Fellow; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hrh-charles-prince-of-wales-b-1948-honorary-fellow-134722

Does anyone know of more Athonian artwork by Derek Hill? There is one sketch known of St. Basil’s Church, that belongs to Chilandariou, as posted by Herman on this weblog before. But I’m quite curious about other oil paintings.

To finish this blog I will show the monument for Derek Hill and the restored fountain.

the memorial stone

A fig tree is trying to survive the shadowy and damp circumstances in the fountain house. A cool place for meditation in the summertime.

Bas Kamps

Bas, I can add this painting from Derek Hill to your post:

Derek Hill: Sailing to Byzantium – 1976

The painting “Waiting for the early boat” is from 1980.

Wim, 6th December 2019

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2082 – Athos pilgrimage 2019: the hike from Prodromou to Kavsokalivia

On our way to Dafni

Planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain is a necessity. Not only you’ll have make reservations for a place to sleep in a monastery or skete, you will also have book your trip by boat for Ouranopoli to Dafni and vv. I made a reservation for our first night in Kavsokalivia by phone and everything looked well organized, so our 5-days pilgrimage could start on Sunday, September the 29th 2019. We planned to go Dafni and then take the Agia Anna boat to Kavsokalivia, so we would arrive on time and I would have some time to discover the place for a post on this weblog. There was only one thing I overlooked: the Agia Anna boat does not sail on weekends….

This monk tries to sell his merchandise after boarding at arsanas Sografou

Our plans had be rescheduled and the only alternative was to take the bus to Karyes and then try to get taxi bus to skiti Prodromou, so this is what we did on the first day. An advantage of this detour was hat our fellow pilgrim Richard, a first time visitor to Athos, could see Karyes and the Protaton church. And we had some extra time to visit the bakery and buy some lunch and bread for our hike to the top the next day, because the taxi bus would not leave before 1.30 PM.

An unexpected novelty in Karyes: a large greenhouse is build somewhere uphill behind the Protaton: We did not have time to take a closer look.

The taxi trip took us almost two hours, so it was already late afternoon when we arrived at skiti Prodromou, and our hike to Kavsokalivia did not even start! In the taxi talked with a Amrican monk who lived in Kerasia. He would stay the night at Prodromou. “Sleeping at Kerasia for pilgrims is only possible if you know the Elder, who can give you a “blessing”, he said.

Skiti Prodromou: a neatly renovated path along a green lawn leads to the skete

This is the route we walked. Yet again we could have been better prepared for our journey, because time was running out and we had to be in Kavsokalivia in time. But we choose the wrong – longer – path, witch was not a wise choice, but it gave us the opportunity to walk a path, that not many pilgrims took before.

Detail of the Holwort Athos map – the best (buy here). The yellow line shows the path we took.
The path on day one (right) and day two (left) on Google maps

The monopati starts immediately after leaving the gardens of Prodromou.

the path from Prodromou going up.

After a short climb you reach the junction where the path from Lavra joins in. It is called Tavrokalivo, according the Holworth map.

Here the paths to Lavra and Prodromou join

At this spot you have beautiful view at both sides, East and West, of the ridge.

Looking eastwards to Prodromou and cape Akrathos
and then, the magnificent view of the Athos South coast, with the Megali Sara, the Great Landslide

And only after 100 meters you will have to make the choice to take the high or low path: we choose the higher path, witch turned out to be an mistake, because it took much longer to reach our goal. The high path leads through lush forests, whereas the lower path is faster, but it gives you less protection against the sun, because you’ll have to pass the Megali Sara (because of the great earthquake in 1905). Not many visitors know that the sea is another 1000 meters deep here. It is said that this is the spot where the 20.000 navy soldiers of king Xerxes found their last place to rest in a fierce storm. This is why he build the famous Xerxes chanal near Nea Roda.

the high path through the forest, with many wild crocus, already flowering
wild crocus
Through the thick forest the top of the Athos mountain appears
This where I took my pictures on the high path, just above the Megali Sara.
Parts of the kalderimi are still intact
Very old and large oak trees remain in this primeval forest
The path leads higher and higher, up to almost 750 meters, until the next junction: time for a break.
small stone avalanches pass our path down
closing in on Agios Nilou
Agios Nilou seen from above
A wooden gate near Agios Nilou
At Agios Nilou: here the path goes up to the high path
Time for a break: it is late, almost 18 h in the meantime…
The kelli of Agios Nilou
The cave of Agiou Nilou
closing in to Kavsokalivia, the sun is going down behind the cliffs of the mountain
Another short break at a small shrine
and then, finally, at almost 19 h: Kavsokalivia is in sight

The archondaris did already leave the archondariki. But I managed to find him and he first gave us loukoumi, water and some kind of rose-tea in small glass (no tsipourou). After he showed us our room and he was so friendly to cook us a meal. Without saying a word he watch us eating, just smiling and contemplating.

Resting in our room after a long hike…..

Next time I will show you our adventures of day two.

Wim Voogd, 1/12/2019

Posted in Kavsokalivia, nature, Prodromou, Trip 2019, walking | 1 Comment

2081 – Fish in the pond at Vatopediou

When leaving Vatopediou through the impressive main gate you see the kiosk in front of you with a beautiful hilly backdrop. Right after the gate to the right you will find a new pool.

The large pool nowadays looks like a Japanese sanctuary. There are carefully designed piled-up loose rocks. In the middle you can see a bonsai tree. There are a variety of colourful goi carp. Surely there is a story attached to the design of the pond and especially with the Japanese influence.

This is the situation in 2009, during my first pilgrimage to Athos. It looked quite different then with a greenish basin.  Certainly not clear enough for carp.

We meditated a while at the pool. Staring at the graceful moving fish. Suddenly I saw that one of them, a bright orange one, carried a cross on its forehead. We were stunned and nailed to the ground.

It is my second experience with suddenly emerging crosses on the Holy Mountain. The first miracle one was in the freezing winter of 2014-2015 when we were exploring the waterfall behind Dafni.

Bas Kamps

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2080 – Exploring Vatopediou

A monk approaches an abundant circular bed of fallen crimson flowers under the Camellia in the courtyard of Vatopediou.

The monastery has got a rather large central square that is – unlike most squares – not levelled out but ascends to the guestrooms. It is a beautiful internal space.

A fruit tree blossoming in the cobblestone terraces as seen from the guestrooms. The stones were still wet from the previous raindrops. The colourful, red and blue, bay windows on the top floors of the monks quarters stand out. In the far corner is the icon making workshop, that we never visited.

On the left we see the bell tower.

An interesting perspective looking down on the rooftops , from the high mediaeval stone path behind the crenels.

The main medieval tower of the monastic complex.

A more detailed view of the architecture. The pine trees rise from the hill behind the walls.

Another perspective on the tilted square that reminds me of terraces.

The second tower, the Byzantine bell tower built in 1427. The only Byzantine bell tower on Mount Athos. Much more slender than the first one.

After dinner we had a rather long and interesting conversation with a friendly, intelligent monk.

Wim showed earlier the special Vatopediou app, that can be downloaded for IPad.

Bas Kamps

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2079 – On our way to Vatopediou

We picked up our rucksacks, said goodbye to the archondariki, and were on our way to Vatopediou. Looking back to Pantocratoros we had a good view on the aqueduct that leads to the monastery. The aqueduct spans an olive orchard. We saw some smoke from behind the bushes; the monks were burning rubbish.

A steady climb awaits when you leave Pantocratoros in the direction of Vatopediou. On these southern hills there are mainly shrubberies. Quite unlike the vegetation on the other side of the peninsula. The broom was blooming in April. In the far distance the silhouette of Stavronikita can be seen. Profitou Eliou is not visible, it is just behind the first hill.

Higher up the hill and further from the shoreline, the vegetation becomes more dense. Shrubberies make place for trees, that embrace the monopati and make it hollow like a hole. Here with pilgrim Jacques.

It was still hazy in the early afternoon. Pilgrims Barry and Herman passing.

Suddenly the monopati opens into a dirt road. There, out of the ancient woods, we see cultivated nature; terraced plantation of neat olive trees and blooming broom.

When we walked on we were suddenly surpassed by a monk from Vatopediou, who was powerwalking at twice our speed. We later learned that he had announced our arrival to the monastic community.

Arriving in Vatopediou we were first welcomed by an enormous blooming Wisteria.

Next time we will wander around the courtyard of Vatopediou.

Bas Kamps

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2078 – film: the hike from Panaghia refuge to the top of Mount Athos 2019

Together with pilgrims Richard Snellen and Gert Jan Wiekart, 30th of September, 1st of October 2019

Wim Voogd, 6/10

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2077 – Athos pilgrimage 2019: silhouettes and bells

The bells of the Metamorphosis chapel on the top of Mount Athos – 2033 meters
Two photos of the bell of the Panaghia refuge at 1500 meters (at daylight and sunset)
The grotesque gargoyle in the shape of a dragon at Xeropotamou monastery
On the top of Mount Athos, 7 AM October 1st 2019

Wim, 5/10

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