The next day, 8th September 2014, we would attempt to climb Mount Athos. The day before there was a heavy thunderstorm on Mount Athos, so the weather looked rather unstable and we were in doubt to climb the mountain. But first we visited Lakkou skiti:
Our taxi dropped us at hut nr 4, from that point we had to walk. First we passed the large hut nr 5, where the highest educated gerontas lives, who has a large library, as father Gabriel of hut nr 6 told us later. On arriving at hut nr 6 we received a warm welcome by father Gabriel. He lived in the huts of gerontas Isidor: according to father Gabriel it was foolish and dangerous to climb the mountain in these weather conditions, so he asked us to stay at his kellion. Soon after father Isidor gave his permission and although we did not yet made up our minds, we were already offered a lovely, cosy room, full of carpets and icons. I was clear to us that we had to change plans so we decided to stay.
A second and not unimportant reason to stay was that father Gabriel explained that there were some fine icon painters in his skete and he promised us to bring us to them. But first we made this little tour and had a look at the surrounding huts.
The skete nowadays consist of 14 well maintained and renovated huts. One of them looks like a grand villa of a very wealthy person. Not long ago the situation was quite different: most of the huts were deserted and the skete was in a desolate state, most of the
houses were in ruins. 20 Years ago only 2 old men survived in the skete, now it is inhabited by 54 monks. To compare: in skiti Prodromou 50 men live today.
This is what Kelliotes writes about Lakkou skiti on his Pathfinders site about Athos. He discribes probably the situation of some 10 years ago?:
“Up to the first half of the 20th century Skiti Lakkou or the skete of St. Demetrios consisted of 24 huts of which six without a church. Only five huts are inhabited: Agia Skepis, Annunciation, St. Nicholas – which is the oldest hut, built in 1606 -, the hut of Panagia Ypapantis and the huts of the Holy Archangels. In the mid-80s only five huts were inhabited by ten monks, while the 2001 census recorded nine monks.”
The map below show us the remaining huts I could find on Google Earth (situation 2003).Father Gabriel gave me the names of the gerontes (elders or starets) of the 14 huts. Hut nr 14 is new. It was still under construction in Sept. 2014 and will be finished soon.
1. Father Pimen (at the highest spot, icon painters)
2. Father Dimitrios (a hut with twins)
3. Father Partenios
4. Father Pavlos
5. Father Antonios
6. Father Isidor (the hut were we slept)
7. Father Paisios (the house with the roses)
8. Father Stefan (the rich villa)
9. Father Rafael (the oldest monk)
10. Father Dossefte
11. Father Nicolai
12. Father Simeon
13. Father Eftimios (big white building near Morfonou)
14. Father Joan (the new hut)
Father Gabriel told us that the skete lies deep in a valley, surrounded by high mountains. This means that from November til March each year there is no sunshine in this valley, he told “it is like living in Scandinavian country in the winter”. Deep in the valley cell-phones do not work, only at one of highest huts you will find enough signal to make a phone call.
Wim Voogd, 28/1 (next time more about Lakkou skiti)