We waved goodbye to Pantocratoros where we enjoyed so much hospitality and a very good meal. We followed the wonderful monopati along the coast. It is a bit hilly but not too strenuous.
The monopati is completely covered from time to time. As a circular hollow path. Robert MacFarlane would love this. And later it opens up for seascapes and mountain views. We walked our own pace in silence. The wind and the waves were the aural companions.One of the nicest signposts on Athos is this one. It shows the way to Stavronikita. An interesting positioning of letters. A ”T” sits on an “A”, two times. Stavronikita, the smallest of Athonian monasteries, is a monastery that has experienced the forces of nature, as we will see.
The approach of the monastery. Heavy reinforcements are made just under the building in the rocks to withstand the elements. These structures were built because a series of earthquakes severely damaged the rock on which the monastery was erected. There were serious concerns about the stability of the structure. It could fall off the cliff. The heavy earthquake of 1905, 7,5 on the Richter scale, of which the epicentre lay close to Stavronikita under the sea, is described by Herman in this weblog.
From this aerial view the impressive reinforcements are clearly visible.
And suddenly after a bend the majestic tower of Stavronikita appears. It’s history goes back to the 10th century. It was abandoned a couple of times. First in the early 13th century, due to pirates and the impact of the fourth crusade. Then in the beginning of the 19th century because of the Turkish invasion. And most recently towards the end of the 20th century when only a eight monks lived here, when Norwich was around in 1964. In 1968 is was abandoned again (Speake, 2002).
After the events in the 13th century Stavronikita became a skete, belonging to Koutloumousiou and later to Philotheou, until 1536 when it became Athos twentieth and last and smallest monastery.
The enormous cypress must be hundreds of years old. It survived many fires.
This photo from Fernand Cuville shows Stavronikita in 1918 after the earthquake but before the restorations. The cypress is already challenging the tower in height in 1918.
The iconic entrance of the monastery that is dedicated to Saint Nicolas. Under the aqueduct, build in 1770, are pools with waterlilies and goldfish. The water supply was a gift from the prince of Wallachia, Serban Kantakouzinos, in French also known as Șerban Ier Cantacuzène (1640 – 1688). This prince is not to be confused with that other prince from Wallachia and fierce fighter against the Turks: Vlad III The Impaler alias Dracula (1431-1476).
Quality restauration works by the Archaeological Service have been completed in the last few years. It’s almost too perfect to be true. Far beyond a postcard beauty.
Ripe grapes hang down. The bougainvillea flowers abundant. Never closer to perfection. Time for a look inside. We will see that this monastery is only lit by candles. The only monastery on Athos together with Konstamonitou that has no electric light until now. Despite the two great fires, in 1607 and in 1741, that burnt it to the ground and the other big fires from 1864, 1874 and 1879 that produced considerable damage. So Stavronikita has been tortured by fires and vibrations. But it survived it all in great splendour.
Photos and text