(This is the English version of the Dutch text first published in this weblog on 21th of nov. 2006 nr. 19)
It happened on a hike from Karakalou to Lavra on april 28th 1986 and it turned out being one the most bizare days on Mount Athos.
Close to Skiti Provata and near Skiti Agios Dimitrios our attention was drawn by a large and, as it seemed, deserted building with bell- or clock towers. Cautiously we walked through the overgrown garden and we peaked through the door if we could see any people still living there, but soon it showed out that the place was totally deserted.
A picture of the garden and the building, soon being a ruin – 1986
Inside the building it was a great mess: everywhere you could find black robes, hats and shoes of the monks and after having a closer look we were even able to find some passports of the inhabitants, who at that time we all called “Russians”. From the stamps in there passports we could deduce that the monks who lived there, had – before the Russian revolution – first travelled from Odessa to Jeruzalem, then to Constantinopel/Istanbul and finally to Mount Athos. We now know that they were not Russians, but they came from Ukrain.
A picture a Russian novice from Panteleimon 1917/18 (from the Dutch magazine Plaatwerk/sept. 1986 (thanks to Paul Robert and Rolf Bos)
It seemed that this decaying building was their last resort and the place where they died, somewhere in the 70/80-ties of the last century, so they must have been very old men. After the last monk died the building must have been deserted and from that time on wind and rain have been “eating” away the structure, because it was clear to see that at one end of the building the roof started leaking. Part of the building the wood was already rotten and walls were beginning to collaps. Others parts of the building, for example the church, the cells of the monks and especially the library were still in resonable good condition and in the top of the tower hung a very large bronze bell.
The sight of all of this made great impression on us, but we also feld a bit depressed: how long would it take before this undoubtly very heavy bell would come down andd smash the floor? We also tried to imagine how the last highly aged monks would have lived in this place, seeing all there fellow monks die, without any hope of youngsters arriving………..
(read more the next time)