1045 – 1678 book: A Description of the Present State of Samos, Nicaria, Patmos, and Mount Athos by Joseph Georgirenes

The book is printed in London in 1678. It is written by Joseph Georgirenes, who was an Archbishop of Samos but living in London. A rather mysterious text on the front of the book:  translated by one that knew the author in Constantinople. The book is dedicated to prince James Stuart, duke of York (the duke who became King James II in 1685).
The last section of the book (page 85 till 112) covers the Holy Mountain. It starts with a description of the geographic aspects (like: Thessaloniki is four days journey to the west). and the Abaton. He mentions a village Alladiava. I could not find any other reference to that town. Anybody? Then Georgirenes gives a description of the all the monasteries and the number of inhabitants. The names of the monasteries have changed over the centuries. In the table below the names used in the 1678 book, the modern names and the number of monks mentioned in the book.


Unluckily the author has forgotten to report about the number of monks in Dionysiou and Dochiariou. But he gives a grand total of monks living on Athos in 1678, the amazing number of 6000. Compare that with the number of 2001 (2261, see blog 752). Or with the numbers in 1903 (7432), 1959 (1641), 1968 (1238) and 1971 (1145). These figures are mentioned in Mount Athos, Renewal in Paradise, by Graham Speake
Interesting as well are the Bulgarian monasteries (Chilandariou, Sografou and Xenofontos) he does not mention other nationalities (Russians, Serbs). Chilandariou, Serbian now, was the most populated monastery.

Georgirenes also mentions Karyai, then already the administrative place, with a public market on Saturday. There in Karyai is also the Aga, with two or three other Turks who protect against other Turks (and pirates). The author gives a interesting description of the usual habit of going abroad on a mission to raise money for the monasteries.
He gives a explanation of the origin of monastic life on Athos. He states that monks from Egypt had to leave because of oppression caused by Mahomentans (Muslims) when they invaded Syria and Egypt. An interesting part is the detailed description of the way a male human being becomes an Athonite monk. He gives a verbatim report on the questions the novices have to answer and the way the monks are initiated in the brotherhood. Among the rules is an absolute and lifetime ban on eating meat (unless you travel, are ill and the doctor advises to do so). There are checks that the monks dont visit each other in their cells; thats a crime and after two or three reproofs very punishable.

You can view the book and download it from:
A Description of the present state of … Athos

Bas Kamps

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3 Responses to 1045 – 1678 book: A Description of the Present State of Samos, Nicaria, Patmos, and Mount Athos by Joseph Georgirenes

  1. Rajinder says:

    Hi Brethren,

    I am from the Punjab, India presently living in Reading, England. I am a retired lecturer in Metallurgy and preach Christianity and Sikhism. In fact, Sikhism is continuation of Christianity and I have put up over 1550 Youtube Videos. Here is the exposition of the Gospel of Philip:-


    I can stay at Mount Athos to explain what I have discovered and would like to know from Monks the same on mutual grounds. I need an invitation of visit and here is my e-mail: rajinder.nijjhar@ntlworld.com

    Hope for the best and God bless you.

  2. Dimitris says:

    I don’t think that you need a special invitation to visit Athos. But if you want to go there and pursue theological discussions with the monks, you could really use a letter of reccomendation from a Greek-orthodox priest. There are plenty to be found in the UK, and they could also point you to specific english-speaking monks in Athos. But you need to remember that you shouldn’t question the faith of the monks when you go there or try to convert them to something else. That wouldn’t go down too well.

  3. Wim says:

    Mr. Rajinder, have a look at post 763 in the “basic information” category. Here you find information about how to arrange your visit/pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain.

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