Walking from Karakalou to Lavra remembered me of one the most exiting moments I had on Mount Athos:
A ‘natural’ brigde not far from Karakalou
In 1986 my friend Pieter and I walked from Iviron to Lavra on our second Athos pilgrimage. Just after passing Karakalou we entountered a deserted and partly ruined building. Not knowing what it was and who it belonged we entered the premisses and found all kinds of personal belongings from monks who had died years before.
One of the main things I kept for more than 25 years was a wax stamp, that I discovered in what used to be the library. The wax stamp of Timiou Stavrou
Some years after starting this weblog about Mount Athos, I found out that the settlement was inhabited again, and that someone was rebuilding the large Ukrain kellion.
So in 2011 I decided to go back to the place I visited 25 years ago and I wanted return the wax stamp to the place where it belonged.
The first view of Timiou Stavrou kellion, seen fro the West side
To be honest, I felt kind of nervous: not knowing what to expect, I asked my friends to wait outside,while I tried to make contact with whoever lived there.
Timiou Stavrou, Oktober 2011
In the garden I spoke to some workmen, who told me to go into the building and search for the monks on the balcony. This is how I saw the same spot 25 years ago:
When I entered the building it showed out that a large group of monks was gathered on the balcony, having some kind of meeting. When I asked politely if anyone could speak English, Father David came to me and explained he was the present owner of the kellion.
The group of monks, with Father David the third from the right, holding the wax stamp
When I explained to him that I wanted return something that belonged to the building and not to me, he looked surprised and exited. And when I gave him the wax stamp, he was so enthusiast and happy! He told me that, when he came to the ruined kellion 10 years ago, nothing of any value had remained in the building. This little gift was the first original artifact from he kellion he recieved. And, secondly, it was a special day of feast for the kellion and the monks had been praying in church all night. He was so delighted by this gift that my friends were invited to come in and we were offered a great meal (at 11 in the morning!).
The dome of the kellion, where I found a large bronze bell hanging 25 years ago. In the meanwhile the bell was been tranfered to Karakalou monastery (see 1298). According to Father David removing the bell saved the existance of the kellion, because it might have caused totall destruction of the building, when the bell would have come down one day.
Although Father David was tired after a long night without sleep, he first gave us a extensive tour through the building and he told us everything about what happend in the past 10 years.
The building originates from 186-(?-), as shown in the inscription in the wall.
An original Russian style wall painting
Father David installed new bells, which he played for us (also see here on You Tube – at 4.09 minutes)
The new iconostasis in the church: in the faults under the dome some original fresco’s remain. The bell and the old iconostasis were taken to the Karakalou monastery.
The old iconostasis in 1986, with the original fresco, to be seen through the right window (left corner)
Because it was a feast day at the kellion we were very lucky: we were offered a great meal with salmon and wine!
Father David with a guest in the kitchen
While we were eating Father David took some time to take a closer look at the wax stamp I just gave him. He returned with a interesting message: the kellion, once inhabited by some 70 monks, was led by a friendly monk called Lotz. And the wax stamp contained his name, so the stamp did belong to this former leader of the settlement!
The wax stamp of Father Lotz
After lunch we were escorted to the garden: but first we saw these rooms, with old clay vessels, to contain oil or wine.
Father David spend all of his privat funding the renovate the building, but is not finished yet. he proudly showed us some of the just finished guestrooms.
We were invited to see the ossuary in the garden (photo thanks to Jitze), and this gave us a big surprize.
Because when Father David entered the small building ……
belonging to the monk Lotz, the owner of the wax stamp!!!!!!!!!!!! The name Lotz on the skull did fade away a bit and was difficult to see on this picture, but it was the same guy.
A very special monent indeed, both for me, as for Father David!
Soon we had say goodbye, because time was running out and we still had a long walk to go to Lavra.
Father David in front of ‘his’ Timiou Stavrou
Me and Father David (and Lotz’ wax stamp)
The ruined east side of Timiou Stavrou
The east wing and the ossuarium in the garden
Leaving Timiou Stavrou – Wim and Gert Jan (photo by Jitze)
This ends my story about this “unknown kellion”, as I said three years ago. We know a lot about it nowadays and it wil not be the last time that I will visit this very friendly monk David.
Later I send all other findings from 1986 by post back to Father David (see below). I hope they will find a good place in his building and that he will be able to raise enough fundings to keep the building intact and to renovate it.
Nice story, Wim, with a happy ending!
Thanks for sharing your interesting story with us!
This is typical a story which is true in every aspect what could become a Athos “miracle”. Not the fact that pilgrim Wim returned the stamp after a long time. There was no doubt in his mind that he would return the “stolen” stamp as soon as he found out that the kellion was again inhabited. No, the coincidence that he brought the stamp back exactly on the date that they were celebrating a feast could contribute to the miracle element of the story. Because normally father David would be on his own in his Kellion but I think once a year there are other fathers present because of the feast and on that day pilgrim Wim brought the stamp back. Is there a new Athos miracle been born? Where maybe in a couple of decennia pilgrim Wim would disappear from story and the stamp came back on his own?
Very Nice Story. 😉