501 – A trip to Athos (day 2 nr 5)

Because I don’t speak Greek it is difficult to understand what is said and sung during a service in church (except for maybe the often repeated Kyrieleison or Christos Anesti at Eastern), but you won’t be bored soon. This is because all the walls of the churches are covered with delightfull painted frescos (not in the Russian churches). There are not much possibilities to take pictures inside churches, so I can only show you the images which you can find in the exo-narthex – the corridor just in front of the entrance of the church -, which also gives an advantage, because the fresco’s here are very “lively”, because they want to show the visitors the horrors of what might happen to pagans and sinners.
A fishlike monster swallows devils and demons in a river of fire !?

Here a fight between angels and devils is shown. One of the devils tries to hold on to a scale with documents, handed down from heaven by God (?), maybe to prevent that the weight of their devilish texts will be to little ? On the ground more texts are lying, waiting to be thrown in the basket. On the right site of this fresco a large devil arrives with more texts on his back, but apparently he is to late, because the first deceased people already overcome death and crawl out of their graves: the angels/God wins the battle.
Although it is sometime hard to know all biblical stories, by observing these frescos well you will find out what the meaning is of a scene.
Here you see the stairway to heaven, where devils and angels try to pull the people to a side, either good or bad. Again there is this monster that spits fire: the devil in his mouth does not have any eyes, a phenomena that you often find on fresco’s that be easily reached by pilgrims.
Not only at present times, but also in ancient times Greeks already feared the Evil Eye: just have a look at all the blue/white glass jewerelly which you can buy at markets and shops. In churches it is sometimes is a to big confrontation to look all these creepy monsters directly in the eye, so the only thing to do is to scratch out their eyes, as you can see on these ape-like (crowned?) demons.

Near the Katholicon you can find some graves of Orthodox Patriarchs, with an image of the first Christian Byzantine emperor, Constantine the Great (helas not in right focus…):

The is a sepia picture of the refectory of Lavra:

and a picture at the same spot, but now with visitors and monks just out of church, waiting for dinner.

and a shot of the beautifull interior of the refectory.
Wim, 3/6

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2 Responses to 501 – A trip to Athos (day 2 nr 5)

  1. Bertinos says:

    The pictures are all quite apocalyptic. Because the sun sets in the west, this is often associated with death. While as the western interior wall of a church is usually decorated with the Dormition of the Theotokos, the outside wall is usually decorated with(scenes) from the Last Judgement, when the damned will be carried away from Christ by a fiery river to hell (the fish-like monster is a kind of personification of Hell).
    The scene with the angels shows a somehow litteral image of the “weighing of souls”; the ladder scene refers to a vision of spiritual life by St. John of the Ladder (Klimakos) as a ladder we have to climb, while devils try to pull us down but angels try to keep us up; and the “ape-like crowned demons” are most likely horned crowned heads of The Beast of the Apocalyps.

  2. Wim says:

    Bertinos, thanks for your expertise ! Wim

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