Athanasios is the founder of the first monastery on Athos, the Great Lavra, 1045 years ago (963). Born in Trabzon and educated in Constantinople, he went to Athos as a hermit in 958, after he stayed in the Zygou monastery (the ruins lie next to the border near Ouranopolis, see post nr 88). With the financial help and reliqs that were given by his cousin Nikephoros Phokas, who later became emperor of the Eastern Roman empire, he started to build a church and monastery, to house all the hermits that had gathered around the big mountain. With help of his successor, the emperor Tzimiskes, a cousin of Nikephoros, who was killed by Tzimiskes in 969, the community grows rapidly and it is said that some 3000 monks should have lived there at that time. The hermits that still inhabited the Holy Mountain were not pleased by this development and later Athanasius could make an agreement about how to choose an abbot and about the amount of hermits a monastery could have (5 belonging to Lavra). The church of Lavra became later on the cause of his death (with 4 others), because on the 5th of july 1002 (next week 1006 years ago!), the dome of the church collapsed and landed on the poor Athanasios, who just arrived to inspect the building in progress.
I continue the story of the third day with our tour by minivan to the well of Athanasios.
Visitors anxiously try to fill all the bottles they brought and to drink as much holy water as possible. We also drank â€“ as non-orthodox pilgrims – not knowing if it might be good for anything. The worst that might happen was a pain in our stomach.
We had the same idea about drinking water from a well during a trip to Athos in april 1986, when the atomic plant in Tsjernobyl exploded and we â€“ not suspecting anything â€“ drank the â€˜cleanâ€™ water of Mount Athos. Afterwards we were happy to hear that the radioactive fall-out landed a couple of days later on the Holy Mountain, after we had left.