We sat silently behind a glass of fresh water and some loukoumi in the guesthouse. The archontaris, the guest monk, was very quiet, contemplative, and we didn’t speak. We just sat in the gloomy, long and narrow room next to the entrance. After a while he broke the silence and asked us if we wanted to visit the church. A suggestion we accepted in gratitude. We followed him. In his right hand he held the enormous keys. In the katholikon he invited us to take a quick picture. The direct sunlight in the church set the golden colours in a warm glow.
The monastery of Stavronikita, Conquering Cross, is devoted to Saint Nicolas who is portrayed here on this fresco in the inner court yard. According to J.J. Norwich Stavronikita is the youngest, smallest and poorest of the monasteries. And he remarked that is was the only ruling monastery that was established since the fall of Constantinople. It was built between 1527-1536. He predicted in 1966 that it probably be the first to crumble altogether into ruins and die. History proofed him very wrong.
The famous mosaic icon of Saint Nicolas, Nicolas the Wonder-worker of Myra. Monks had thrown the icon in the sea, during times of iconoclasm. Much later they caught the fourteenth century icon in a fishing-net and they found that an oyster was stuck in the face of St. Nicholas. When they pulled the oyster out, blood ran from the wound where the oyster had been in the icon. That’s the miracle that happened in 1553. The story of Saint Nicolas can also be found on a site entirely devoted to Saint Nicolas. The importance of this story is highlighted by the fact that a part of the oyster is kept in the sacristy of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The semantron. In the church all instruments but the human voice are forbidden. Outside the katholikon there is one exception to that rule, the semantron, on which a monk beats with a wooden hammer every time when the service or a procession is about to start. You don’t hear bells to call for service. There are some bell towers on Athos, in Russicon and Kafsokalivia for instance. All pilgrims will recognise the rhythmic sound of the semantron, that marks the beginning of a new day, probably around four o’clock in the morning.
The quiet inner courtyard of Stavronikita with potted plants, a large amphora and a citrus tree. Reflections of sunlight were playing on the floor and walls. I visited a toilet going up to the right, which was lit by an oil lamp.
A rusty iron cross on a stone pedestal in an alcove, set in an orange glow. Just behind the cross is a loose stone in the wall. It made me curious but I didn’t explore what was hidden there. This cross probable was a witness to all the fires and vibrations that Stavronikita has suffered from.
Still life with a monk’s robe at the entrance gate of the monastery. It was very tempting to stay in that candle lit paradise, but it was time to move on.
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