We went from Iviron by boat and it was the second monastery I ever visited on the Holy Mountain. Two shy and unexperienced boys of 23 years old entered this magnificant monastery.
Soon a monk came and invited us to come to the church: it was not in use at that time of day. When we were inside the church he asked about our religion and we answered politely that we were protestant. That was the right thing to say, because if we had said we were Katholic, I think he would not invited us to follow him. Although at that time we did not know a lot about all the Orthodox rules, we feld that something special was about to happen. The monk acted rather suspicious and he let us to the door that separated the church and the iconostasis. “If we wanted to see some relics”, he asked. Not knowing what to expect we nodded “Yes” and he opened the door. The room behind the iconostasis was really a fabulous place! The gold of the wooden iconostasis, several old icons lying all around, the fresco’s on the walls and artifacts that the monks used during the service, were so close. Prudently he opened a closet and when he took out the boxes with relics he kept on bowing, kissing and saying prayers in Greek. We realized that the things he was about to show us were very Holy. He showed us many different, there was a piece of the real cross, but this I can remember best:
He just showed us the Girdle of Maria (Panaghia), the Mother of Jezus! He kept on bowing and praying, while looking now and then at us, curious about our reaction. We tried to be as polite as possible, hardly realizing what special occasion this was !
Afterward I found ou that the story about the girdle goes like this. Just before Maria went up to heaven (her Ascention), she gave her girdle to the Apostel Thomas. It ended up at the imperial palace in Constantinopel and it came to Vatopediou in the 13th century through Bulgarie.
we continued our trip to Sografou and saw this panorama: