In part one and two – posts 2205 and 2206 – I showed you the postcards from the first 17 monasteries. In this post I will present the postcards of the remaing three: nr 18, Esfigmenou, nr 19, Panteleimonos or Roussikon (with a large amount of postcards), and the 20th monastery, Konstamonitou (also called Kastamounitou). And to finish the postcards-posts I will publish some images from skitis and other places on Athos.
Read more about the 1968 fire in this post. The following old postcards are are from before 1968, with all the buildings of the monastery still intact.
Panteleimonos, date unknown, French: this probably a photograph taken in the photo studio of the monastery, where two Dutch pilgrims found a treasure with (mostly broken) old glass-negatives in 1976 – for more information see post 861 and 862. On the last photo in post 862 you can recognize the same piece of furniture as on this picture.
This last picture from December 1956 of a monastery is riddle to me, because I could not determine which monastery it might be. Lavra perhaps? Who can help?
B Skiti Andreou
C Nea skiti
With the written text, in German: “habe die Adresse verlegt, gebt sie bitte Frau Neuss” meaning : I have misplaced the address, please give it to Ms. Neuss.
D Skiti Agia Anna
E Skiti Prodromou
According to me this might very near the spot where the German army had their flag position, overlooking the Eastern and Southern coast of Athos. Soon after the Second World War the place was demolished. Could the stones at the foreground be a parts of it, or should we look for pieces of concrete (more to the edge on the Soutern part of this ridge?). I am determined to find this place once!
F Skiti Profitou Eliou
G Miscellaneous postcards
The large kelli lays near Karyes: you can see the building on the foreground has scaffolds and is not finished yet. The workers threw large amounts of building material in front of this building. The fine bell tower has disappeared in the meanwhile, but behind it a beautiful new church is build recently.
This ends the overview of Athos postcards over the centuries, I hope you liked it.
In part one – post 2205 – I showed you the postcards I found on the internet of Karyes and the first eight monasteries. In part two the next monastery is:
This is fourth postcard from Zepdji. Until now I discovered three other postcards made by Zepdji in 1917: one from Vatopedi (see last post), one from Docheiariou and one from Karakallou. These postcards are made during World War I, when Athos was under the occupation of a French/Russian army, as we will notice from the written text on the backside of this postcard.
My French is not good but in the middle of the text I can read this: “je suis en bonne santée” and “hier nous avons de bombardes par les aviont” etc. meaning something like: “I am in good health” and “yesterday we have been bombared by airplanes”. Who can help translating the complete text? (thanks DD from France for translating the complete text: read his comment).
Most photographs from the Sografou monastery are made from the hill opposite the monastery and show us the West wing, with on the left the annex where the kitchen just be (at least in 1980).
On this postcard, probably made later then 1917, another annex is added one floor higher to the West wing of the monastery. Left is the North wing, with the entrance. On the top of the oval protruding part in the West wing is the trapeza (with a dome).
Next to the gate in the North wing, you seen long streched building, where the archondariki is situated. Nowadays it is completely renovated and luxurious. The other houses are for workers/laymen.
On this postcard you can see the roof of the trapeza with its dome and on the right the katholicon. On the foreground the South wing of the monastery. This picture is probably shot from the opposite hill with a telelens.
Although this postcard has been published before in post 1065, I added it again because I want to bring all the Zepdji postcards together. This one differs from the other because it had no numbers on it and also is in English. Could it a be (illegal) copy of the original?
Photo taken from the sea with the arsanas buildings
This photo is almost identical to the previous, taken from a slight different angle.
Here the tree in front of the boat house has been felled and new tree grows next to the house on the right: a picture taken in a later year probably.
Aerial photo, with building activities/scaffolds at the boat house. The pier has been enlarged and a small one has been added, to create a tiny harbor. Luckily the ugly red construction crane is not this postcard. I do not know when they put it next to he North wall, from 2007 until now I have been spotting this disfiguring red monster. Is it allowed to let stand there, in Unesco heritage site, for more then a decade?
The text on this card resembles the text that was used by soldier “Pierre” on his postcard of Vatopedi in 1917, which I showed you in part one of post 2205, postcard nr 12. Could they have known each other as a soldier of the French army and copied each others massages on the front of the postcard?
Another Zepdji postcard from 1917, with another French partially legible text on the postcard: “pouvoir tu ? ? quelques ? ? ?”. The photo shows the North wall of the monastery. In the background you can probably see kellion Timiou Stavrou.
On this postcard the South and East wall is photographed.
On this postcard the South and East wall, with the gate, is photographed.
Much has changed in the meantime, as you see on the 3D model from Google earth below. In the empty corner left a building (S/W corner) has been added and lower part of the opposite wing has been transformed in a two floor building(North wing).
The three postcards are almost identical, only the climbing plant on the right wall in the first photo is smaller.
14 Agiou Paulou
Three postcards from the same spot/angle, almost identical to each other. The facade and the the buildings at the entrance have been altered and the large pine tree in front of the kiosk has been felled or has fallen.
Stavronikita is my favorite monastery, one of the only remaining, without electricity inside the monastery. Nothing has changed here until today, luckily.
This postcard shows the long Eastern wall of the monastery: the right part of this wall does not contain buildings, as is common with Athos monasteries. Until recently the North wall also only consisted of a wall, but nowadays part is filled by a new building (more information in post 2062). In the background the islands of Amouliani appear and the Greek mainland in the North.
Mistakes were made even in old times: here a French postcard printed in Paris shows us Grigoriou and the text mentions: St-Paul.
This is clearly a postcard bought by tourists who do not visit Athos, as we can learn from the text: Edith goes shopping and window gazing in the morning and spend the afternoon on the beach!
What is interesting om this postcard is the old tower on the right side of the monastery, whitch is even better visible on the next two postcards.
On both full color postcards you can see the old ruined and high tower stil standing. It has been removed in the meanwhile, as you can see on the picture below from 2019:
Maybe the old tower is a remnant of the great fire from 1761, when the old parts of the monastery were distroyed totally. I am not sure when the ruin of the old tower is removed. According to the other pictures of Grigoriou that I have in my archive, I could find out that the ruins of this tower has been demolished between 1909 and 1956. What is assuring about Grigoriou that the iconical palm tree is seen on almost every picture!
Sending a postcard home was in former days a way to let friends and family know where you have been and a pilgrimage to Athos is no exception to this tradition. As early as 1905 the first postcards from Athos appear, mostly with a text in French. The early cards with photos were mostly printed abroad or I presume, in Thessaloniki. I wonder where you could buy these postcards back then, I think it would not have been easy the find them. There is one card of Iviron that gives us a clue (see below).
On our weblog we showed you in previous posts already many other postcards, for example in post 1334: 66 postcards of all 20 monasteries. Today I will present (in this part one) a few more (old) postcards, not only from all monasteries, but also from the “capital” Karyes and (later) from some skities:
00 – Karyes
On both postcards you can see that the current building of the Holy Epistatia with its white stairs, left from the old tower where the ‘Tragos’ is kept and the bell tower of the Protaton-church, is not build yet.
02 – Vatopedi
In 1917 a French/Russian army occupied Mount Athos (see post 1950). Maybe this postcard is written by one of the soldiers.
03 – Ivirón
What is striking here is that this picture showes the South wall. Most pictures are from the Eastern or Northern walls. Visible is a large brown elevation (rocks?), that end at a green area close to the wall. Behind it a gap is filled up by a red wall, while at most monasteries the courtyards are completely surrounded by buildings. Nowadays this area has been cleared totally and a new building has been added at the red wall, as you can see on the aerial photo I took in 2017:
The gap in the Southern wall is clearly visible here. The old tower is, just as on the postcard below, still in ruins.
This picture shows a part of the arsanas left, the East wing of Ivirón, now with the renovated tower in the background.
04 – Chilandariou
You can read more about the artist Reinhold Zwerger and Athos-map maker in post 1339.
In 1980 I visited the Holy Mountain for the first time and Ivíron was the first monastery I stayed in. Thirtynine years later I finally visited the last monastery of the 20, Xiropotamou. Although the monastery is easy to reach from Dafni (only 2.1 km, a hike a little more then half an hour), many pilgrims pass this place whilst traveling in the bus to Karyes or taking a boat further down the coast. So I am not the only one who completes the tour of the 20 monasteries with a visit to this, I am sad to say and also according to other pilgrims, rather inhospitable monastery. Not that they are unfriendly, because on our arrival we were treaded with a lovely lunch by a English speaking archondaris from Georgia and later with a beautiful room, but for us non-orthodox pilgrims the church and trapeza were kept closed and any contact with monks was avoided meticulously. Even a group of orthodox pilgrims, who asked politely to see the katholicon, were denied to have a look and left disappointed and a little frustrated, before hiking to a next destination.
But anyway, we started our hike from Dafni: the first part leads along the dirt road to Karyes. Soon after the arsanas of Xiropotamou a kalderimi goes up to the monastery.
The path going up to Xiropotamou monastery, standing on the bridge over a dried-up bed of a brook.
The dried-up bed of the brook that leads to the arsanas
The old stones of the kalderimi, fairly intact
Along the path: a praying mantis
The West wing of Xiropotamou seen from the kalderimi
The fence at the end of the kalderimi: here it goes down to Dafni
The main entrance to the monastery
The special gargoyle at the South/West corner: a dragon?
An old picture of Xiropotamou: the tower of the portico building is still in ruins at that time. This ruinous state of this part of the monastery is still confirmed by the plan made by Feigl in 1980.
On the Feigl plan of the monastery you can also see that the old path/monopati from Dafni continues here to Karyes. Some parts of this path should still be in use, as you can see on the two maps from Zwerger and Howorth (marked with a red line). I wonder if anybody recently walked on these paths on a hike to Karyes?
The archondariki building left of the entrance (builing U) is totally renewed nowadays, as you see on the next picture, that I took during my flight over Athos in 2017.
On a picture above from the main gate you can see that on the right side of the main entrance a new wall, with vines growing in front of it. This is how this place looked like in 1928, according to this postcard.
On this aerial photo (below right) is clear that the old wall and building has been removed totally at some point.
Finally some good news: Orthodoxia News Agency has just reported that the Holy Mountain will again receive pilgrims from tomorrow, May 11, 2021. The lock-down period ends today, May 10th. However, there are restrictions:
for each monastery ten diamonitiria/visitors,
for each koinobitic skiti five,
for each idiorritmic skiti two and
for each kelli or hermitage one diamonitírion/visitor.
Hiking/travelling from one monastery to another is still forbidden, you can only visit one monastery. The restrictions include the mandatory tests for the coronavirus at the entry points of the Holy Mountain, with only those with negative results beiing allowed to enter.
According mr Lolis Christos from the Pilgrimsoffice in Ouranopolis/Thessaloniki these few special permits are given by the monasteries or skitis/cells themselves. We will have wait a little more until the general permits to visit Athos reopen.
For a few pilgrims this is good news, let’s hope that the general permit for all pilgrims will be back soon.
The arsanas of Grigoriou, with the boat Agia Anna arriving at 10 PM
The boat house at the arsanas is being renovated (Oktober 2019)
Monks working on oil-smeared cables
Arsanas Grigoriou, with a “second archondariki” on the left. The main archondariki is inside monastery walls, where you can stay when there not too many pilgrims.
The stairs that lead to the “second archondariki”.
The interior of the “second archondariki”: a large sleeping room for big groups of pilgrims and with many bunk beds.
The path from the arsanas goes up to the main entrance. On this spot with the stairs, the monopati leads you to Dionysiou.
Looking down at the arsanas: large cypress trees and houses with beautiful balconies frame the path
Grape vines provide shade on the path to the entrance
The main entrance with its portico and two Corinthian pillars. Above the doors and behind glass is a painting of Ag. Grigoriou.
The text above the door from 1896.
The ceiling of the portico with a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.
The hall that leads to the first courtyard, with on the right a door for the door-keeper.
The red door to the door-keepers room.
A view of the first courtyard, with again grape vines providing shade. On the right are the rooms of the archondariki. On the left in the backgrond is the phiale with its beautiful paintings, read more about it here.
The first courtyard: looking back at the main entrance
Two more images of the first couryard
The water tap in the first courtyard
The door to the second courtyard with in a niche – behind glass – a mosaic of Saint Grigoriou “O Ktitor”, offering the katholicon, surrounded by paintings
This is how it looked like 10 years earlier, in 2009.
The hall that leads to the second courtyard, with a large wooden semantron and a smaller iron version.
The second courtyard, with on the right the stairs that go up to the archondariki, on the left teh katholicon.
The doors to the katholicon
In the wall next to the entrance doors: on the left painted tiles and on the right stone carved haut- and bas relief decorations with Christain symbols, with one special plant- of palm tree like image.
The roof of the katholicon of Grigoriou
The outside walls of the katholicon, with remnants of different colors paint
Walking around the katholicon: beautiful masonry walls from 1783
The famous palm tree, by which it is easy the identify the Grigoriou monastery on pictures. A yuca plant is trying to compete in hight.
The katolicon seen from a different angle.
And another photo of the katholicon: behind it in the South, you can see the rocks, where the slopes of the Holy Mountain start.
The activity on Mount Athos that I miss the most is walking the old monopatia, the narrow foot- and mule paths that are all over the peninsula.
Many of them are unfortunately destroyed and replaced by gravel roads.
Many thoughts come in my mind while walking these paths, how old are they, who build them, how long did it took to build them?
Could it be that some paths, especially around the mountain itself and the Lavra monastery founded in 963 are from medieval origin? Or even older? In pre Christian times there were several villages on the peninsula that presumably were connected with each other.
Who walked them? During our walks, that can last a whole day, we, most of the time, do not meet anybody. But before building the gravel roads these paths had to be full with pilgrims and monks.
Many monopatia are very nicely paved, with horizontals stones that stand up a bit to drain the rainwater or with a kind of trench in the middle. Sometimes nature itself destroys the paths. Such as an immense landslide that came from the mountain once, between Prodromou and Lavra. Suddenly the paths ends, and then you have to climb through 15 meters of messy bushes, a kind of improvised path. At the end of it , the paved path continues. Wild boars toss the stones on the paths with their snouts in search of food but men with bulldozers are most quilty for the destruction of the monopatia.
Ofcourse not all paths are paved but so trampled by the many pilgrims that vegetation will not grow, but the overgrowth of the path is lurking. Fortunately The Friends of Mount Athos (FoMA) have a path clearing program.
My brother and I have hiked most of the footpaths on Athos at one point or another, but still have the desire to look for paths just beyond the border with the ordinary world. If they are still there?
Here is an overview of the monopatia of my trip in 2019:
Athos is closed for tourists. It has always been, as far as I’m informed. Due to Covid-19 Athos is now closed for pilgrims as well. It must be really quiet and peaceful now. The monks can fully concentrate on their tasks. But for pilgrims seeking consolation and advice it will be difficult not to be able to travel.
Seeing this tourist poster was a big surprise for me. The poster is part of a series. There is another one promoting the Greek island of Mykonos. So It seems to advocate travelling and promote tourism to the Holy Mountain. I found out that it was created in 1949 by artist M. Pechlivanidis & Company. I wonder if there was any tourism allowed, shortly after the Second World War.
We see the well-known rock on which the monastery of Simonos Petras lies as a crow’s nest. The perspective of the picture is from the road to Dafni. We visited this spot as pilgrims in 2019. The ferry is just arriving, more than 300 meters below.
In these days you don’t see posters of Mount Athos advertising for travels. But I was amazed to find in the site called “wikitravel” a possibility to book a hotel on the holy Mountain. We know of only one hotel in Karyes, above the bar in the main street.
One of the older pictures of this spot is this one, taken between 1910 – 1915.
Even older pictures, from 1853 was posted earlier (post 1864). This is the one with the same perspective.
Let’s hope that the vaccination on the Holy Mountain will be completed soon so that the Holy Mountain can be reopened for pilgrimages.
Ali Sami Bey (prob. 1872 – unknown) worked as a photographer in Karyes from 1925 till 1927. He was a ex-colonel and so called aide-de-camp to the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
He made black and white photo’s but he was also tinting his work with a pen and Chinese ink. The colouring process damaged the photo’s.
The harbour of Dafni with on the right a kind of lift? Notice that there is no paved road along the coast but a small donkey/mule path. The first road on Athos was build here in 1963, the road from Dafni to Karyes.
Ali Sami was always dressed in his old military uniform. He started his career in the Ottoman army and later became the Imperial photographer for Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Following the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, supporters of the Sultan were purged and in 1909 the Sultan was exiled to Greece. Ali Sami arrived in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1909 and published the newspaper Hak (Right),while in 1916 he published the French newspaper Le droit (The Law). He was nick-named Bahriyeli (sailor).
Chilandariou, with on the right the small aqueduct that leads to the kitchen of the monastery.
Not many people appear on his photographs but in this case the monks, muleteers and pilgrims of Docheiariou posed for the Photographer.
The Russian monastery of Panteleimonos with the green union shaped towers of the church.
The studio of the Kaltsoni brotherhood in Sk. Anna.
A Coast Guard boat delivered the first 400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Mount Athos on Friday, March 19, 2021. The vaccination center was set up in the health center in Karyes. On March 20, 2021, the first 36 monks were vaccinated, as well as staff-workers of monasteries, while the vaccinations will continue on March 20 and 21. The Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenos, Archimandrite Mr. Bartholomew, was the first to be inoculated, followed by monks from the monasteries of Iveron, Koutloumousiou, Simonos Petras who went to Karyes especially for this purpose.
Last Wednesday, March 17, the start of the vaccinations on Mount Athos was planned, but due to the weather – there was strong wind – it was not considered appropriate to let the boat sail. There is relief among the monks that the vaccinations have started. According to information from makthes.gr, the initial caveats, the denial of some, even the conspiracy theories, have diminished. Typically, they even asked to vaccinate monks infected with coronavirus. Although the monastic state is in a lock-down and pilgrims are not allowed in, the monks are particularly scared, because the Coenobite system, according to which they live in small spaces, all attend church together and the virus is likely to spread. In addition, there are a significant number of monks who are elderly and have underlying illnesses.
Source text: makthes.gr. Read the whole article here.
Mount Athos has been in a lockdown since the beginning of December and, according to the decision of the Holy Community, the ban on entry for pilgrims is valid until March 30. The employees of the monasteries and employees who must enter the Athonite State, undergo a coronavirus test in Ouranoupolis and only can enter if it is negative. The Holy Community will discuss the matter in the coming days, but the lifting of the ban will depend on both the course of the pandemic and decisions made by the government.
Covid 19 cases were recorded on Mount Athos, where at least four monks lost their lives and many others were hospitalized in Thessaloniki.
Wim Voogd, 21-3
The lock down of Athos is now extended until April 15th.