When I visited Athos in 1980 for the first time the Holy Mountain was still in a deep crises. After the revolution in Russia and the two World Wars the situation on Athos was dramatic and some said the end of nearly a thousand year of monasticism was close by. I visited the Russian monastery and heard that only 8 monks survived of the once large community, that counted appr. 3.000 men in twenties of the last century. Not only the absence of monks, but also the buildings were in a deplorable state of maintenance and there were no signs that things might get any better.
I remember visiting the monastery Sografou. I already told you about the wooden toilet hanging on the outside of the wall, but even in 1997 somebody in Chilandariou warned me not just to stroll along a corridor where the old cells of monks could be found, because the wooden floor was too dangerous to walk on.
Old floors in Chilandariou – 1997 (maybe burnt in the last fire ?)
On my next journeys in 70/80-ties I saw things clearly started changing in a positive way. First of all the number of monks increased rapidly and with the help EU-funds the monasteries were renovated systematically (and â€“ Iâ€™m said to say â€“ also the roads, which ment that a lot of the old paths disappeared). But the atmosphere on the Mountain did not really change and on the other hand you could benefit a little bit, because the guesthouses became a more comfortable place to stay. But still, I remember an evening in Vatopedi in 1997 when I walked in the courtyard after sunset and suddenly saw myself in a bright neon light coming from a modern stainless steel â€œhospitalâ€-kitchen with all the up-to-date equipment you could dream of â€¦â€¦â€¦ Not very romantic but undoubtedly a big help for the monks who had to do all the cooking and dish-washing.
This picture shows you the modern toilet-facilities (and showers) in Lavra: you did not hear me complaining !
Lavra â€“ New bathrooms – 2007